Teachers on sick leave cause budget concerns 

School trustees alerted by school board staff

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - Doctor's Orders Up to five schoolteachers in the Sea to Sky area have been on long-term sick leave and school board staff is keeping a close eye on the situation.
  • Photo by John French
  • Doctor's Orders Up to five schoolteachers in the Sea to Sky area have been on long-term sick leave and school board staff is keeping a close eye on the situation.

There are as many as five teachers in School District 48 on full-time sick leave and this is causing some minor budget concerns in the school system.

The teachers have all been off work since the beginning of the year and the current budget doesn't cover for that many teachers away from work on a full-time basis for extended periods said John Hetherington, the school district secretary-treasurer.

He alerted the board of trustees to the situation last month noting that the total budget for covering sick leaves is $1.2 million, but if the current trend continues it will result in a $1.7 million in total spending. With a potential $500,000 shortfall on the horizon for that line-item in the school district budget, Hetherington said he is keeping a close eye on other budget lines to find areas where spending is lower than forecasted, so funds from other areas of the budget can be moved to cover the sick leave situation.

Hetherington said he based the $1.7 million projected expenditure on the average of the last five years and the only year that comes close to the situation being experienced now is the year that H1N1 spread and impacted a significant number of people.

"For the first time in many years we've had a few teachers who are off on full-time medical leave right from the very start of school in September," said Hetherington.

"We're aware of it at this point in the year and we're trying to make some adjustments so we'll be able to deal with it. It could be that the last half of the year things could change the other way."

This is the time of the year when Hetherington said he does a juggling act. He said teacher salaries are the biggest piece of the school district budget. It currently looks like that part of the budget, which estimates an average total annual teacher cost this year of $91,000 per teacher, might have a surplus, which will help offset the projected deficit in the sick leave budget.

The secretary-treasurer noted that the sick leave numbers from January were lower than January of 2012 and 2011.

"If that trend continues this indicator of maybe half million dollars over budget will start coming down," said Hetherington.

While he keeps an eye on the sick leave budget, the board of trustees approved the $45 million district budget for 2012/13 on Feb.13. The finance department staff has already begun work on the 2013/14 budget.

Local school calendars for next school year will get board approval at the regular monthly board meeting on March 13. Bill 36 — the School Amendment Act gave school boards more control over scheduling options to better meet the needs of their students. The standard provincial calendar has been eliminated to allow each district to set their own start and end dates along with vacation periods in between. The new act directs each school district in the province to consult with the public before finalizing school calendars in February of next year.

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