After four hours of debate, the Toronto District School Board finally passed a balanced budget.
Faced with closing a $109 million hole in its books, the board cut $58 million in spending including closing underperforming school cafeterias saving $600,000, reducing the operation, care and maintenance of school board buildings by $9.9 million and a whopping 40.7 percent increase to permit fees for after-school programs.
In April, the board approved $50.8 million in staff cuts, which will result in the loss of 430 education assistants, 134 school secretaries, 17 vice-principals, 200 high school teachers, 10 caretakers and six hall safety monitors.
However, the board managed to find the money to reverse some of the cuts that had been proposed including a decision cut $300,000 from special education and $400,000 to pay for social workers and psychologists.
It also voted to reduce cuts to individual school budgets, from $600,000 to $300,000.
The money to save the three items comes from an additional $1 million the board expects to find following a Ministry of Education operational review.
Ward 11 trustee Shelley Laskin hailed the board’s decision as a difficult, but ultimately responsible one.
“I’m very happy with the board’s decision because it will help us move a long way to getting rid of our structural operating deficit,” the St. Paul’s trustee said.
She said eliminating the $109 million shortfall helps make the board more sustainable in the long term.
“This means that when we have the conversation next year, yes there probably be will some program cuts that might be necessary, but it certainly will not be of this magnitude,” she said.
But grade 11 Student School pupil Andre Lopez had deep concerns about how the cuts would affect his education.
“I feel very strongly about these cuts … The board can bounce back, but this directly affects students and our futures,” Lopez said. “This isn’t just a corporation they’re playing with — they’re playing with people’s lives.”
Lopez doesn’t believe the cuts were necessary at all. He says the cash-strapped board should receive more funding from the province.
“I know the government has enough money, so why are they attacking the students?” he asked.
In addition to staff cuts, grade 12 Downsview Secondary School student Ricardo Bocanegra was worried about a $4.5-million reduction in teacher professional development days.
“We’re going to have [fewer] teachers, and those teachers are having less training,” he said. “So we’re going to have bigger classrooms and they’re not going to know how to deal with it.”
Ward 10 trustee and chair of the Toronto District School Board, Chris Bolton, noted that the cuts were a “weighty decision”, but couldn’t be avoided.
“This is by far the largest deficit we’ve had,” he said. “To take this amount of money out of the budget … is a difficult decision, and it is going to affect the classrooms.”
Want to know just how the Toronto District School Board plugged the $109-million hole in its budget? Here’s a list of the cuts, savings and projected revenue gains it used to balance its books.
$50.8 million in staff cuts including 430 education assistants, 134 school secretaries, 17 vice-principals, 200 high school teachers, 10 caretakers and six hall safety monitors
$9.9-million reduction to facilities services (operation, care and maintenance of board’s buildings)
$4.5 million from reducing number of professional development days
$3.9-million reduction to non-academic central departments (administration)
$2.5 million through reduction to outdoor education program, which the board expects to make up through provincial government funding for outdoor education
$300,000 reduction to individual school budgets
$9-10 million from a Ministry of Education operational review (which likely include cuts)
$2.5 million by redeploying non school-based educational administrators and teachers
$2 million by recovering the full cost of supply teachers and replacement staff for board employees doing business on behalf of federations, unions, and other organizations as well as those on long-term secondments (one time only)
$1 million by closing school board buildings during Fridays in the summer and workdays between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1
$600,000 from closing underperforming cafeterias
$400,000 in savings from a central, one-time reduction to school administrator’s professional development
$250,000 in reductions due to attrition for transportation
$200,000 from continuing education by reducing administrative costs and realigning summer school credit delivery to include e-learning
$120,000 from reducing central administration for international languages programs
Projected revenue gains:
$7 million in new Ministry of Education grants to support specific programs, ministry initiatives
$2.2 million by raising permit fees for after school activities by 40.7 percent