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Campbell River school district budgeting an extra million for on-call teachers costs

Part of safety protocol asks staff to stay home if experiencing any illness
School District 72 board office. Contributed photo

School District 72’s expenses are $1.2 million more than expected according to its quarterly finance report.

The main culprit for the uptick is a significant increase in teachers teaching on call (TTOC).

District’s secretary-treasurer, Kevin Patrick, said the increase was difficult to predict when the preliminary budget was prepared last spring.

“We didn’t know to what extent COVID would still be around,” he said.

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Staff have been heeding the district’s health and safety protocols to stay home when sick, as evidenced by the increased use of sick time across all employee groups, Patrick pointed out.

“They are doing what we have asked of them,” he said. “In the past staff may, or may not have come in when they were ill.”

Of note, Patrick said, was last school year’s TTOC costs were actually a little less than usual, especially at the beginning of the year, because everybody took such good precautions, so didn’t seem to get as ill.

“This year, the beginning is probably more of a regular sick year before COVID had started to come up, and staff have done what we asked which was to stay home when they were sick, so it is higher than what we had experienced in past years.”

Patrick warned the board at its Feb. 1 meeting there might be a need to dip into its emergency contingency fund to balance the books.

“What we’re doing is we have to forecast to the end of this year,” he explained. “We know what we’re experiencing right now, but what we don’t know is if things will get better than we expect.

“We’re kind of doing an estimate in between the best case/worst case scenario and we will include that in this final budget. We’re anticipating it to be about a $1 million, but of course we hope that that’s less.”

The district currently has $1.2 million in emergency contingency funds, and $1.3 million in unrestricted surplus but tries to only draw up to 1/3 of the surplus in any given year to be able to address unexpected costs.

Budgets for sick coverage expenses will be permanently increased next year, Patrick said.

Those budgets will have to be offset by higher enrollment numbers, or reductions will have to be found elsewhere.

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