School District 20 to cough up more cash for sick days

School District 20 will be putting some purchases on hold in order to cover the cost of substitute teachers covering for sick days.

Sick days for staff continue to plague the school district as it now faces a further hit to its current budget.

An extra $150,000 might have to be absorbed into School District 20’s (Kootenay Columbia) current budget as substitute expenditures keep climbing.

With only 15 per cent of the budget left ($148,000) and around $400,000 expected to pay substitute staff to cover for illness and other leaves of absence in the next four months, SD20’s board of trustees got a grim look Monday night at their regular monthly meeting at Blueberry School at how the books will be balanced this year.

The substitute expenditures mean some planned school district purchases will be put on hold, said SD20 superintendent of schools, Greg Luterbach, noting there was some money in the budget to replace vehicles for the district’s maintenance crew, as well as buy some new computers.

“They will be on hold until we see how we are going to balance the budget,” Luterbach said.

“So there are going to be some unhappy people … because we are going to have to use that money to balance this year’s budget.”

This is of serious concern, he added, considering how the expenditure is affecting other areas of the district’s operation.

The total substitute expenditure for February was over $110,000. For the year the district had budgeted around $1.02 million, or $83,000 per month.

Trustee Gordon Smith asked what the average age for a teacher was in SD20.

He cited a recent comment from Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union representative Andy Davidoff that the local union contained the oldest complement of teachers in the province.

Provincial statistics show the KCTU is the second oldest at an average of 48 years, said Luterbach.

“But over the last four years our teaching force has gotten two years younger,” he said

about the area’s 250 teachers. “We’re actually trending downward but our expenditures are going higher.”

The current budget projected for 2012-13 is $1.22 million for substitute expenditures. Last year the school district budgeted $1.34 million but used $1.36 million, an increase of $477,057 over 2009-10.

The trend shows that substitute expenditures are increasing, said SD20 secretary-treasurer Natalie Verigin, but they don’t know exactly where they will end up for this year.

“Our budget for 11/12 is less than 10/11 actuals,” she said, which is around $362,000 less. “If we anticipate that the trend of 2009-2010 will continue … even that ($1.2 million) budgeted may not be sufficient.”

But “pennies will drop out of some of our other budget line items,” she said.

Claims for family illness leave has cost the district $57,811, as has bereavement leave by $22,484, and substitutes for charters at $4,502 — all with no initial budget amount. Teachers on call has used up 76 per cent of its $665,313 budget ($507,779), while subs for aides used up 94 per cent of its $94,679 budget ($88,933).