School district budget includes job cuts

·2 min read

Richmond School District trustees passed a much-debated operating budget at last night’s board meeting.

The budget, which carries a surplus of 2.8 per cent, will cut the equivalent of 34.9 positions, including 17.4 teachers and 13 CUPE employees. Twenty full-time custodians will be added for the first six months of the school year to bridge the staff who were added this year thanks to one-time federal funding.

District secretary-treasurer Roy Uyeno said policy dictates having a surplus of two to four per cent. He also noted most of the 34.9 employee role reductions will not result in layoffs.

“Budget cuts are never easy, particularly when they impact staffing, but are necessary due to the reality of having very little flexibility,” said Uyeno.

Board chair Sandra Nixon added: “Trustees really have explored with staff each budget proposal, the alternatives that we may have been able to look at, particularly in response to concerns, questions and feedback that we’ve received from our stakeholders."

Trustee Richard Lee was opposed to the budget, and said he would have preferred a lower surplus amount be left in the budget considering the extraordinary times.

District spokesperson David Sadler noted that the district’s operating budget has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, including enrolment decline and additional costs associated with both pandemic-related educational programs and extra health and safety requirements. This year’s provincial budget did not include funding to address COVID-19 recovery or health and safety measures, although trustees met recently with local representatives of the provincial and federal governments to advocate for more funding.

Sadler said this year’s budget uses $3.2 million from accumulated surplus, as well as including a $1.7 million reduction to the services and supplies budget. However, there was still a shortfall of around $3 million.

“The district first looked to lessen the impact on employee staffing reductions by reviewing vacant positions, and the expiration of contract positions where possible,” said Sadler.

Representatives from the Richmond Teachers’ Association and K-12 employee union CUPE Local 716 expressed disappointment at the number of positions cut, considering the continuing effects of the pandemic.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel