Layoffs looming for teachers

Teachers and staff will be handed pink slips in the Vernon School District.

Trustees announced Tuesday that reducing employees is just one of the actions being taken to cope with a $1.7 million shortfall in the 2011/12 budget.

“The past three years has seen this district reduce its spending by $5 million,” said Bill Turanski, board chairperson.

School enrolment is projected to be down by 173 students in the coming year, and that will lead to an overall net decrease of eight full-time equivalent teachers, one FTE clerical staff and 0.5 FTE in school administration.

Declining numbers and the demographics of special education students will result in reductions to teaching and support staff positions.

There will also be an across-the-board reduction of five per cent for supplies at schools. At the district office, supplies will be trimmed by five per cent and there will be no increase to the labour relations budget.

District officials state the $1.7 million shortfall is a result of one additional instructional day next year, premium increases in employee benefit plans, higher utility fees and less grant funding because of fewer special needs students.

Vernon Teachers’ Association president Bruce Cummings said it’s too early to predict the number of layoffs.

“We should be getting more information in the next few weeks because right now we have about 15 names of people retiring and a number of teachers coming back from leave, and the board is talking about reducing teaching staff by eight, so we don’t know how they want to do that reduction in staff yet,” he said.

Cummings added that last year there were supposed to be 17 FTEs reduced in the district, which translated to 115 layoffs.

“By September, they had about 90 of those teachers placed, but layoffs are mostly by seniority, except for a few specialty positions,” said Cummings.

Mark Olsen, CUPE president, acknowledges trustees are in a difficult position.

“If the kids aren’t there, then the jobs wouldn’t follow, so that makes sense,” he said.

“But the whole provincial funding is a mess. We’re getting the cost increases, which are just inflationary, and downloading of things.

Olsen said trustees have to go back to the ministry to continue lobbying for more funds.

“I’m just disappointed the services are continually getting eroded, but while enrolment has dropped and jobs are being lost, I don’t see a lot going down with administration — the top jobs seem to be secure.”

Olsen said the erosion of hours per day is putting a good number of CUPE’s members at the poverty level.

“I’m concerned with a lot of my members who are trying to get by on four hours of employment a day, so the wages are one thing but if they don’t get the hours, that’s another thing,” he said.