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Posted: January 11, 2013

SD5 board calls Cooperative Gains Mandate problematic

On December 3, 2012, school districts across the province received a letter from the provincial government directing local school boards to find money within existing budgets to pay for staff wage increases negotiated by the provincial government.

Under the provincial government’s Cooperative Gains Mandate public sector employers were offered the ability to negotiate modest wage increases as long as those increases could be found within existing budgets, service delivery levels are maintained, and costs are not passed on to the public.

According to School District 5 (SD5) Board chair, Frank Lento, the board is at a loss to understand how local school boards could be expected to fall under the mandate or fund further wage increases from existing budgets.

“We submitted this year’s school budget to government in June 2012. Now government is moving the goal posts yet again and asking us to fund a retroactive 1.5% wage increase for last year and this year,” said Lento. “We support fair wage increases for all staff but to ask us now to go back to last year’s budget and fiddle with our books is beyond belief.”

Lento points out that the budget development of any school district is a lengthy process involving extensive consultation with partner groups, an assessment of student needs and projected cost pressures based on available funds.

“We had a very, very difficult time balancing the budget last year. We’ve been cutting expenses for years due to real-dollar funding reductions. Everything goes up: heat, light, vehicle fuel, and so on. But government has not increased school funding to match these increasing costs,” said Lento. “And now they are settling contracts with monopoly money. That’s not the way you run a business. It’s not the way you support a quality education system for our kids. ”

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BC Trustees Association (BCSTA) President, Michael McEvoy, expressed similar concerns in a letter to Minister McRae dated December 13, 2012.

“Many boards now face the prospect of significant deficits in the next fiscal year and any savings to be had in the next six months would sensibly be used to offset those impending deficits. The simple truth is that any further “savings” will cause additional negative impact on direct service to students and facilities.”

McEvoy also notes that previous provincially negotiated contracts were supported by budget increases from the Ministry, not paid directly from existing district budgets.


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