A 3.5-per-cent wage increase over two years for CUPE employees will cost the Central Okanagan School District more than $1 million.
In the short term, the district has enough in its surplus of just under $1 million to cover the preliminary costs, said board of education chairwoman Moyra Baxter on Thursday. In longer-term budgeting, "everything is on the table."
In the next few weeks, trustees will sit down with senior staff in private to look at options to cover the initial $650,000 and then another $500,000, she said."We're going to have to look at the budget very, very carefully. The board will be looking at everything. Do we cut transportation because the ministry has said quite clearly that school boards now do not have to provide that? As unpalatable as some of these discussions will be, we do have to have them."
The school calendar committee will examine possible changes to the schedule - while maintaining the required number of instructional hours in a school year. Boundary school district has gone to a four-day week, noted Baxter.
The provincewide deal reached late Tuesday by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and BC Public School Employers' Association calls for a one per cent boost retroactive to July 1, a two per cent increase on Feb. 1, 2014 and a final hike of half a per cent next May. The agreement expires June 30, 2014.
It would be so much easier for school boards if the government paid for the wage increases it negotiated, admitted Baxter.
"Due to the financial situation in the province, they expect the school boards to find the money within their own budgets just as other sectors have had to apparently look within their budgets to fund increases for other workers," said Baxter.
"I'm not going to say whether it's fair or not, but that is the way it is. The government was quite clear this was their expectation. We have absolutely expressed our opposition to that. We have said that there is no way that any cuts in the school district will not affect students. Even if it is not right in the classroom, everything we do is related to students."
Any increase in wages for teachers will be covered by the province and that's a much larger budget item than the $32.5 million the school district pays to 1,347 CUPE members who work as certified education assistants, clerical staff, trades workers, bus drivers and noon-hour supervisors.
The 27,000 unionized public school support staff have been without a contract for more than a year and schools in some parts of the province were bracing for a strike that could have occurred as early as Monday.
Both sides must still ratify the tentative pact with voting dates to be announced, but CUPE negotiators say the terms will be recommended for endorsement.
With ratification, each CUPE union local will then go to their respective tables with school districts to conclude collective bargaining.
"We are very pleased that the agreement was reached because it does alleviate the fear of having job action and strike, something everyone wanted to avoid."