The Langley School District has to find more than $7 million more in cuts in its budget to fund provincially mandated wage settlements.
Every provincial public sector employee whose contracts expire on or after Dec. 31, 2011 falls under the B.C. government's 2012 Cooperative Gains Mandate.
The province isn't providing any additional funding for these wage settlements.
"I think it's ridiculous to come to boards," said Trustee Megan Dykeman. "Obviously there's going to be impacts to the district. I think it's completely unacceptable downloading."
She went on to criticize the provincial government's use of "Orwellian doublespeak" by calling it cooperative when districts have no say in it.
Employers, such as school districts must create savings plans to "free up from within existing budgets to provide modest compensation increases," the Ministry of Finance says.
Staff informed the board around October of the province's mandate and has been working on the problem. The province sent a reminder letter in early December. "You're still required to have a balanced budget and find extra money," said secretary-treasurer David Green. "It's obviously a very challenging mandate."
The district will have to find about $429,000 this year for CUPE agreements, and about twice that next year to meet the two per cent per year increases.
The province has said districts can come up with 1.5 per cent this year, and then 2.5 per cent next year to make up the four per cent.
The savings must be found by mid-January so the provicial bargaining unit can start talks with CUPE for its contract that expired in June.
For 2013/2014 teacher contracts, the district must find $2 million and $4 million for the year after.
About $300,000 will be needed for non-union staff increases (for example principals, vice principals and administration).
The Cooperative Gains Mandate does not allow employers to reduce service levels nor transfer costs of existing services to the public. The savings must be found through "operational cost reductions, increased efficiency, service redesign, business gains, and other initiatives."
Langley has struggled in recent years to clear off its books a $13.75 million deficit and under the guidence of the B.C. Auditor General's office expects to have it paid off by the end of this school year, earlier than required.