CUPE wage increase identified last year but no money allocated

Chilliwack school district suspected the CUPE deal would fall in their laps, but did not allocate funds for it in the 2013-14 budget.

Chilliwack school district had anticipated the expense of a CUPE salary increase being put in their hands, but did not allocate funds for it in the 2013-14 budget.

In the budget report, presented to the board of education on April 9, a 1.5 per cent salary increase for support staff was noted under “potential budget challenges” for the coming year; a cost the district estimated at $600,000. But the district did not set aside funds for the possible increase.

School district secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis said that while senior management had suspected the provincial government would offload the expense to school districts there was no guarantee.

“We had a feeling… but it’s government and bargaining, it could go any direction,” said Slykhuis.

“When you’re putting a budget together for trustees, you try to lay out all the contingencies so they’re aware. Your budget is your best guess at that time.”

And while the now new expense, estimated at $700,000 for this year, is a kick to the district’s bottom line, Slykhuis doesn’t believe the district should have allocated funds for it back in April.

“In an ideal world we’d have a rainy day reserve, but by the same token we only get so much money from the government to spend on education and if we put a couple million dollars into rainy day funds, then that money is not being spent on immediate needs,” he said.

The district is working on an amended budget that will now include the $700,000 CUPE salary increase, the $50,000 byelection, and the $600,000 for early French immersion in the expenses column.