School District 20 – No cash coming

School District 20 (Kootenay-Columbia) is now asking for the remaining 20 per cent of the money saved when teachers took their job action.

The province giveth and the province taketh away.

With only 80 per cent of the money saved when teachers embarked on their three-day job action in March being released by the province to local school districts, School District 20 (Kootenay-Columbia) is now asking for the remaining 20 per cent.

The SD20 board of trustees has sent a letter to the Ministry of Education asking for the entire sum — $282,265 — to be returned. The province only agreed to fork over $228,265 to SD20 through the Learning Improvement Fund, opting to keep the rest.

With school districts across the province tightening their belts, and SD20 having to absorb a $1.55 million shortfall due to decreased funding in their 2012/13 budget — it was only fair to return the extra funds, said board chair Darrell Ganzert, since it was destined for the district in the first place.

“We would prefer it be returned to us so we could apply it to (this year’s) budget,” he said.

There has been no word back from the province since the letter was authorized two weeks ago, said Ganzert, nor does he expect one. The province has made it clear SD20’s financial problems will worsen with reductions in funding expected over the next two years.

The local board will have to provide answers.

“But we’re only a little bit away from saying to the public, look we can’t do this (balanced budget) anymore,” said Ganzert.

With the fifth oldest complement of teachers in the province out of 60 districts, the Kootenay-Columbia district also has the fifth highest average salary at $86,253.61 — behind Nechako Lakes, the highest at $89,504.88. Salaries are based on years of experience.

But the numbers are misleading. A starting teacher in B.C. makes in low $40,000 range. It takes a teacher 10 years to work up to maximum salary.

However, it takes six years on average before a teacher gets a contract to teach — with the average substitute teacher earning less than $20,000 per year — and another six years or more before they land their first full time contract.

For more information on the school district’s statement of financial information, go to http://www.sd20.bc.ca/reports-publications.html, listed in the 2010-2011 Statement of Financial Disclosure on pages 42-45.

It includes all nine elected officials for a total remuneration of $97,937.63, with expenses of $17,717.09.

The report also detailed employees earning over $75,000 up to the highest wage at $129,544.22.

A total of 145 school district staff — including teachers, administration, CUPE members — make over $75,000.

That accounts for $12.94 million, with $175,161 in expenses, while the remainder of the district’s staff earns a total of $15.92 million.