The Ministry of Education has confirmed it will foot the cost of this year’s teachers’ contract rather than ask individual districts to pay for it out of their existing budgets.
For the Kootenay Lake district, that means an additional $754,000 in funding for the 2014-15 school year, intended to cover salary, benefits, and other increases included in the new collective agreement.
“It’s a good news story for us,” secretary-treasurer Kim Morris said. “We get our funding for 2014/15 and an addition outside of the block. For 2015/16 it may or may not be included — we don’t know yet. But for this year, it offers some stability because we’ve already budgeted and can carry on with this increase fully funded.”
Although the province normally covers increases reached through provincial bargaining, that wasn’t the case last year, when the government told districts to come up with savings plans to pay for an agreement that provided a 3.5 per cent wage increase for unionized support staff.
Last week, the board and CUPE Local 748 ratified a five-year collective agreement retroactive to July 1 that includes a 5.5 per cent wage increase. It also reimburses support workers for all hours lost during the teachers’ strike.
Overall, the province is putting up $93.6 million to fund the teachers’ agreement. Morris said the Kootenay Lake district’s share was based on provincial reports on teacher staffing, plus additional data the district provided.