BCTF president

Salaries for Kelowna-area teachers have topped the $100-million mark, local school trustees will hear Wednesday night. B.C. Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring says the union is preparing for job action if mediation doesn't yield a new contract.

Teacher salaries in Central Okanagan public schools have topped $100 million for the first time.

An amended budget for Central Okanagan Public Schools, reviewed by trustees at a meeting Wednesday night, shows total teacher salaries at $101.9 million.

The amount is higher than the $99.5 million that was forecast last September because of extra funding from the NDP government and because student enrolment was slightly higher than expected.

“The recommended amended annual budget properly reflects the district’s expecting spending patterns for the rest of the fiscal year,” secretary-treasurer Ryan Stierman wrote in a report to trustees.

By the end of February, all B.C. school districts must provide the government with an updated financial plan that adjusts for any changes since classes began the previous September.

Expectations were that 23,145 students would show up at the district’s 42 schools from Oyama through Peachland. But enrolment was actually 23,371, resulting in an additional $4.1 million from the government and the hiring of more teachers than planned.

As well, the district also “requested and received” an extra $5 million to hire more teachers for certain schools with “classroom composition challenges,” Stierman writes.

The vast majority of the school district’s spending, accounting for 80% of the total budget, goes toward toward salaries and benefits for teachers, vice-principals and principals. Operations and maintenance account for 13%, and district administration costs are 2%.

The top annual salary for Central Okanagan public school teachers is $89,287. That’s up 9% from the top rate that was paid in September 2014.

A contract covering all of B.C.’s public school teachers expired on June 30, 2019. Negotiations between the government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation have been without significant progress, according to a mediator. In January, the BCTF sent a memo to all teachers outlining plans for job action should current mediation efforts not yield an agreement.

“Our goal is to achieve a good deal for teachers at the bargaining table,” BCTF president Teri Mooring wrote in the memo. “We will not initiate any job action or strike of any kind while mediation is ongoing.”

In 2014, before a six-year contract was agreed, B.C. teachers went on strike for five weeks.