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Richmond CUPE local asks school board to protect 'vital services'

Union president takes issue with management salaries.
Richmond School District office

The union representing support workers in Richmond schools is asking the board of education to protect “vital services” as the district faces a $3.9 million shortfall this upcoming school year.

The board is expected to vote on next year’s budget on Wednesday.

The initial recommended cuts to CUPE loc. 716 staff – presented at the April board of education meeting - included five out of 10 high school library technicians, seven career information staff, an educational assistant and two administrative assistants.

“We recognize the budget challenges the district is facing, but some of the cuts being chosen don’t put the needs of students first. There are other choices that don’t hurt students that could be made,” said Ian Hillman, president of CUPE loc. 716, in a press release.

Board chair Sandra Nixon confirmed that no changes have been made to the proposed budget and the recommended cuts will be the same at next week’s meeting.

In a press release, Hillman took issue with the fact the salary of the superintendent, Scott Robinson, was almost $70,000 more in 2021 compared to 2020.

However, the school district clarified that much of the increase – reflected in the annual Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report – was vacation payout because Robinson didn’t take any holidays that year given the increased workload caused by the pandemic.

Robinson’s pay has been frozen since July 2020, according to the school district.

In its press release, CUPE 716 said the school district budget “shouldn’t be balanced at the expense of workers and the students they serve.”

To balance the budget, it’s also being recommended $1.3 million be pulled from reserves.

However, Hillman, at last month’s board meeting, suggested the board to pull more from the reserves to avoid laying off staff, and asked why the board was "paranoid" to draw more.

The unrestricted reserve fund, which Hillman called a "rainy day fund," is expected to be $7.5 million at the end of this school year.

To make up for the $3.9 million shortfall, district staff also recommended cutting supplies and services by $900,000.

Other proposed cuts are to both Richmond Teachers’ Association members as well as management, including one director of instruction whose salary is $215,000.

The school district is looking at adding an assistant manager of rentals whose salary would be $96,000.

The board of education, CUPE and the RTA as well as other education groups from Richmond recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Education about the need for more operating funds as well as more money for seismic upgrades and regular maintenance.

In a 6-1 decision, the board recently voted to spend $12 million from its capital reserve fund to upgrade ventilation at more than a dozen elementary schools.