Some teaching positions will be lost but no teachers will be out of work after Sooke school district trustees cut costs to deal with a $1.7-million deficit, says the Sooke school board chairman.
“No teachers will be unemployed, as such, but they may not be in their preferred job,” Bob Phillips said.
The board passed an overall budget of about $110 million this week.
Sooke Teachers’ Association president Ian Johnson said the lost positions are for specialists — which can include counsellors, librarians and special-education teachers. Rising enrolment was involved in the decision, he said.
“The only reason they’re taking it from [those] is there’s no room to take it from the classroom teacher.”
Phillips said at least 12 teachers will be hired for the classroom to deal with an increase in enrolment, with the specialist cuts one way of paying for them. When enrolment increases, the provincial government provides more base funding.
About $800,000 will be saved by cutting the specialist teachers.
District superintendent Jim Cambridge said there is ongoing growth in the number of students, “so we need to have classroom teachers for them.”
“It’s the other services that we’re going to have to reduce when we’re having a struggle balancing a budget.”
Also cut were Choices and Elements, programs for students with behavioural issues. As well, reductions were made to a deaf and hard-of-hearing program and the equivalent of almost two full-time speech-pathologist positions were cut, Cambridge said.
“Choices was a stand-alone program that was completely cut, it’s gone,” Johnson said.
Cambridge said cuts were also made in administration, including a district principal and a vice-principal position.
Phillips said the board had to make tough decisions, but was faced with problems much like those faced by other boards across the province. One difference is the Sooke district’s growth in student enrolment, he said. “Percentage-wise, we’re the fastest-growing district in the province, us and Surrey.”
Projections are for the number of students to climb by about 1,800 in the next five years. There are about 9,200 students now.
“Our problem is the budget deficit and the cuts we did are a mirror reflection of the funding we feel we should have got from the government,” Phillips said.
That includes such things as the rising cost of electricity and Medical Services Plan payments, he said.
The Saanich school board raised a similar argument while considering a deficit budget, something that is not allowed. All boards must pass balanced budgets by June 30 each year, and failure to do so can lead to firing of trustees.
The Saanich board has moved away from talk of a deficit budget and will renew its budget discussion June 1. The Greater Victoria school board passed a budget of about $212 million in April.