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Richmond schools facing $3.9 million shortfall next year

CUPE loc. 716 president called proposed school district cuts "shameful."
Richmond School District office

The number of library technicians at Richmond secondary schools could be cut in half.

And this is just one of the proposed cuts to the Richmond School District staff to make up for a projected $3.9 million shortfall next year.

The unions representing teachers and support staff both came to Wednesday’s board of education meeting, as well as library technicians themselves, to plead with board of education to not make any cuts, saying it will have an impact on classrooms and students.

In fact, CUPE loc. 716 president Ian Hillman called the proposed budget cuts “shameful.”

Other positions on the chopping block are three career advisors, a school psychologist, two administrative assistants, three teacher-consultants, a speech and language pathologist, a director of instruction – whose salary is $215,000 – and an educational assistant whose specialty is literacy.

It’s also proposed to reduce supplies and services by about $900,000.

The total proposed staffing and supply cuts would save about $2.56 million.

The board is also proposing to draw $1.3 million from its reserve fund to cover the rest of the budget shortfall.

Hillman asked why the board couldn’t draw more from the reserve fund, projected to be $7.5 million at the end of this year, asking why they are “paranoid” about depleting the reserves.

Hillman pointed out CUPE members were cut last year, and they are being cut again while a manager position is being added – the proposed budget includes adding an assistant manager of rentals, which will cost $96,000 next year.

“Why is the board so paranoid about a rainy day, and not use more of their reserve funds,” Hillman said. “Here we are again, losing CUPE jobs. Your staff morale is low already, this will only increase the lack of morale. My members are in the classroom, but you’re still cutting them.”

“These cuts are shameful,” he added.

Furthermore, he questioned how the work of library technicians will be done when the number of positions will be reduced to five from the current 10.

“I hope it’s not student volunteers that are doing CUPE work, or there’s going to be a labour relations problem with that,” Hillman said.

In her report to the board, secretary-treasurer Cindy Wang pointed out ministry funding reflects a “status quo funding structure” with no increase to cover inflation or staffing cost increases that are bound by contracts. The board of education is legally obligated to balance its budget.

Richmond Teachers’ Association president Liz Baverstock told the board at Wednesday’s meeting there should be no cuts, rather the board should be advocating for more money from the provincial ministry of education.

“It is the role of every trustee in B.C. to stand up for public education and highlight the challenges of chronic underfunding,” Baverstock wrote in a budget brief to the board of education. “The needs in schools are continuing to grow and each cut, even those that are indirect, will impact staff and ultimately students in Richmond classrooms.”

The board of education is expected to make its final decision on the budget in May.

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