The local school district can breathe a collective sigh of relief this year after the Ministry of Education confirmed it will cover costs associated with the new teachers’ contract.
For the Kootenay Columbia district, that means an additional $617,000 in funding for the 2014-15 school year, intended to cover higher wages, benefits and other increases included in the new collective agreement.
“The ministry has committed that government is fully funding the settlement,” confirmed Greg Luterbach, superintendent for School District 20 (SD 20). “This is coming as a grant for this year and how the money will come in subsequent years, is still to be determined.”
Luterbach explained this year’s amount and more will be needed each of the next three years to cover raises in both on-call and permanent teacher salaries and increases to their related wage sensitive benefit costs, as well as costs related to the changes in the extended health benefit plan.
Overall, the province is putting up $93.6 million to fund the teachers’ agreement. The share for each school district is based on provincial reports of teacher staffing, and additional district data.
According to the SD 20 board chair, his past experience foretells that the government might only cover Year One costs, leaving individual districts to pay the extra out of their existing budgets.
“If they refuse to fund in subsequent years it will mean layoffs and increased class sizes,” said Darrel Ganzert. “All districts will hold their breaths until the following year budget to see what the government has in mind.”