Burnaby school district cuts 27 FTEs

Burnaby school trustee Ron Burton -
Burnaby school trustee Ron Burton
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In the end, Burnaby school district will be cutting the equivalent of about 27 full-time jobs (FTE) to balance next year's budget.

That's a far cry from the 42 jobs that were being threatened by proposed cuts announced earlier.

But all along, the proposed cuts were worth more than the $3.1 million the district needed to find, noted district secretary-treasurer Greg Frank. That allowed the district and school board some flexibility to pick and choose where the savings would come from.

The district also got some good news in recent weeks when the province released $265,000 in holdback funds to Burnaby, further reducing the shortfall to $2.8 million.

School trustee Ron Burton, chair of the district's finance committee, said public input helped give the board some direction on where to focus its efforts.

"Some of the things were, of course, the band program was huge, libraries were huge."

Non-enrolling teachers at elementary schools, which include music teachers and teacher-librarians, will be cut by two FTEs (down from the 8.8 proposed earlier) for a savings of $189,600. Such teachers teach classes while their enrolling teachers have their preparation time.

Music programs in all the district's elementary schools will continue. Most of the prep time will continue to be done by music teachers, with a portion to be shared with teacher-librarians.

Kevin Kaardal said it will be a slight change in the prep time. "It'll allow us to keep music at every grade level. That was critical for us … At this level we don't lose any teacher-librarians, who are key learning leaders in the schools, or the music programs in the schools."

As with a number of programs, district staff looked at changing the model of how they operate to meet the budget targets, Kaardal said.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees wanted to save as many custodial jobs as possible, and parents wanted to make sure schools stayed clean, Burton said.

As a result, the plan to save money on custodians has been changed to save $500,000, down from the original $650,000. Instead of shifting cleaning services to evening hours at all 41 elementary schools, now it will only take place at the 12 smallest elementaries.

It's a model used by many other school districts as it's more efficient to clean classrooms, washrooms and other areas when students aren't around, said Frank. The change will lead to the loss of 8.15 FTEs.

Average class sizes in secondary schools have been increased from 26.5 students per class to 26.75, which is still within education ministry regulations. That will lead to a cut of almost 11 FTEs (down from the 16 proposed earlier) and a savings of $1 million.

Other savings include a cut of one FTE non-enrolling teacher at the secondary level for a savings of $92,000. The reduction will be in English-as-a-second-language and library staffing due to decreased enrolment.

Aboriginal education will lose one FTE ($92,000) through a change in how the program is delivered. Small amounts of staff time provided to elementary schools as "Aboriginal contact" time will be reduced, and the program centralized.

A vice-principal at one secondary school will be cut due to decreased enrolment ($126,000), a district staff development program consultant position will be cut and the team's budget reduced ($92,000). In secondary schools, 1.5 FTEs will be lost through a reduction of science lab assistants and an office support clerk, both due to decreased enrolment ($65,000).

The budgets for Adult and Continuing Education programs will be cut by $330,000 largely by ending a lease for its Brentwood location and moving it within existing school district facilities, and eliminating contracted security services at one location.

Burnaby was the only district that provides on-site security and it's only at one site, Frank said. "We really felt that there was not a real need to have it there."

While the budget for next year has been balanced, funding shortfalls are expected to continue.

The provincial budget announced in February shows no increase to education funding in the next few years despite increasing costs.

Frank said the district will continue to look for potential savings and places to raise more revenues. But after years of cuts, the opportunities for further reductions "perhaps shrink to a certain extent."

Burton said the district plans to start consulting with employee groups earlier in the process next year in hopes they can also come up with ideas for savings.

He gave kudos to district staff for their work on budgets. "It's been outstanding over the years. We haven't had to cut as other districts have and that's due to them primarily."

Burnaby Teachers Association president James Sanyshyn was glad to see the cuts were not as bad as originally feared. But it's not yet clear exactly how teachers and staff will be affected by some of the reorganization.

"They haven't actually spelled it out for us," he said. "At the end of the day there are 16 fewer teachers [that will be] working for the district than there are this year."

Sanyshyn is bracing himself for worse cuts in future.

"There's a lot more cuts to come in the next two years, and really, 93 per cent of the budget is staffing. I don't know what else they can really do to save money," he said. "They've already turned the  heat down in schools, they're turning the lights off, they're cutting back on supplies, moving to e-textbooks … you can go to the well so many times, it's going to dry up."

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