In a special public meeting Tuesday evening the School District 27 board agreed in principal to cut the equivalent of 4.4 full-time teaching positions in efforts to meet a projected shortfall of $800,000 in its 2012/13 budget.
The Ministry of Education funding for operating expenses is based on a per-student formula with some extra funding provided for rural and remote schools, weather, busing needs, and other criteria, explained secretary treasurer Bonnie Roller in her presentation during the public portion of the special meeting.
She said enrollment dropped in the district this year by almost double the original projections.
The district expected to lose about 70 students and lost closer to 140 students.
The conservative estimate is that the district will lose 225 students next year, Roller said.
Even with special funding protection provided by the ministry for rural districts such as ours, Roller said that based on the projected enrollment numbers, the district expects to have $800,000 fewer dollars to work with next year.
She said the district can also expect to have funding protection gradually removed over the next few years until it is completely eliminated.
She said the district can expect to lose $1.6 million in funding protection in 2012/13; $2.24 million in funding protection the year after that and will likely see the end of funding protection the following year.
Chair Will Van Osch said the special meeting Tuesday was required in order to meet contract obligations with teachers regarding negotiations on how and where the 4.4 full-time equivalent in teaching time will be reduced.
This year the district has about 308.5 full-time equivalent teachers. Next year, the district expects to need only about 304.1 full-time equivalent teachers based on enrollment projections. Mark Wintjes, director of instruction human resources, said the enrollment projections are based on discussions with principals.
He said teachers can be added in September if enrollment numbers prove to be higher than projected, but it is more difficult to remove teachers after the fact.
Trustee Patti Baker abstained from voting on the resolution.
She said she supported keeping teachers in the classroom rather than adding more teacher assistant time to support teachers in managing split grade classrooms and students with special needs.
Before cutting teacher time she said the board should be looking at other areas of administration to make cuts.
“I think we are going in the wrong direction,” Baker said.
Cariboo-Chilcotin Teacher’s Association president Joan Erb asked what impact the budget will have on maintaining the class size and composition requirements that were established with Bill 22 and are now in jeopardy with Victoria’s new Bill 33.
Assistant superintendent of schools Harj Manhas said the class size and composition guidelines set out in Bill 22 have been maintained in this district, with the exception of a couple of classes at the secondary level that have had one or two students more than the normal 30 students set for that level.