Nova Scotia

Mass librarian layoffs unnecessary, adviser says

The provincial official who reviewed the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board's budget says there are ways to keep library services after all.

The provincial official who reviewed the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board's budget says there are ways to keep library services after all.

Doug Stewart was asked to review the budget after the board announced it was cutting all 41 librarian positions.

In a report released Wednesday, Stewart said the board didn't account for an extra 10 retirements by teachers, which could save it significant money.

Stewart outlined $1.6 million worth of options in his review.

He said the board didn't adequately consider the education minister's direction on using attrition wherever possible to save money.

Two weeks ago, Premier Darrell Dexter accused the board of playing politics by cutting every library worker in its system, which he called a move designed to embarrass his government.

Wednesday, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie called on the premier to take back what he said about the board.

"The NDP's own budget officer concluded that the board acted reasonably and responsibly in the circumstances," Baillie told CBC News. "I think the premier owes that school board an apology for calling their motives political, when in fact his own consultant says they weren't."

Baillie said it's clear the board was only doing what they had to do in light of a smaller budget.

Dexter won't apologize for comments

However, Dexter told CBC News he was sticking to his original comments and he wouldn't be apologizing.

"I think they were obviously politically motivated, in fact transparently so," Dexter said. "I stand by absolutely by the statements that I made."

Stewart also recommended closing adult high schools, saying community colleges provide that service.

He suggested cutting more elementary teaching positions and an extra early literacy program to save the library services, as mandated by the provincial funding formula.

Stewart acknowledged that would make elementary school classes larger than the board would prefer, but he said classroom sizes would still hover in the low 20s.

The board must find savings of $900,000 to maintain library services at the same level as other school boards in the province.

"The board's decision to completely eliminate library services is inconsistent with its peers, the school funding formula and the province's views and an appropriate level of library services should be retained. What that level is, and how they look are something the board has to sort out," Stewart said.

"A decision to reduce library service would be consistent with the board's budgetary positions and the fact that in [20]11-12 of the eight school boards, it provided the second highest level of support for libraries.

Chignecto-Central is facing a $6.5-million shortfall after the provincial government cut funding by three per cent to school boards.

The board says it will review all options but cannot predict how many of the 40 library jobs may be spared.