At least a dozen school district workers could face job cuts unless the province helps pay for an $840,000 increase in contributions to teachers' pensions.
"My guess is (cuts) would be spread across the board," Kelvin Stretch, the Kamloops-Thompson School District's secretary treasurer, said Thursday. "It's a dozen positions or more."
Stretch's comments came a day after the Pension Corporation of B.C. advised the school district of pension increases that take effect July 1, 2013.
The district is responsible for 1.3 per cent of the amount, which translates to $840,000. Given that 90 per cent of the district's annual budget goes to staff costs and benefits, there's little money left over to play with, he said.
He points out that it's still early days, and the province has come through in the past.
"We're optimistic that they will cover (the amount) like they've done before," said Stretch.
But he said the B.C. Liberals have held back funds like the annual facilities grant in the past — money the district counted on. In that case, administrators had to cancel contracts on capital projects.
The province cancelled the annual facilities grant at the height of the economic downturn in the fall of 2008. The grant, which pays for capital upgrades to school property, has since been restored.
Teachers will also contribute 1.3 per cent to the pension top-up, which Kamloops-Thompson Teachers' Association president Jason Karpuk said is a cost-of-living increase.
Increases happen all the time in order to maintain the integrity of the pension, said Karpuk. He didn't know how the employer — the school district — pays its share.
Kamloops-Thompson school board chair Denise Harper said the province typically pays for raises but not benefits.
But she said she hopes, given the political climate and the months before the district's next budget is readied, that Victoria will come through.
"It is a matter of great concern, but there's still a lot of water that needs to flow under the bridge between now and then," said Harper.
The school district sets its preliminary budget in April, weeks before the next provincial election.
Karpuk wouldn't be surprised if the province stiffs schools districts on the pension increase. He said it's become all too common during the B.C. Liberals' reign to start initiatives and not pay for them.
"If you keep mandating more and more stuff be done but you're not providing the money to do it, you end up with shortfalls," he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Education told The Daily News the province is reviewing the matter.