Trustees play for time with province

  • December 18, 2006

TORONTO - Despite a provincial report which recommends ways for the Toronto Catholic District School Board to erase $34.9 million in red ink, trustees are hoping to dodge cuts by playing for time until the spring provincial budget.

"The strategy at the end of the day, quite frankly, is to rely on the government's seeming commitment to fix the funding formula in the next provincial budget, and in the process between now and then, which is three months off, to find some way to balance the budget without cuts," said board chair Oliver Carroll.

The Catholic school board was to hold public consultations with parents Dec. 6, 9 and 11 before deciding what to do with a "special assistance team" report which recommends reducing the numbers of senior special education staff, vice principals, occasional teachers, teaching assistants and secretaries through attrition. The report also calls for a $3-million cut in textbooks and school supplies.

The meetings with parents will increase political pressure on a government looking forward to a provincial election next fall to increase education funding, said Carroll.

"This is the penultimate part of the decision process," Carroll said. "And the ultimate one comes with the budget next April."

Carroll does not believe it's likely the board will vote to refuse to cut their budget, thereby inviting the province to take over financial management of the board. But the board chair does believe there's wiggle room in deciding how the cuts will be made.

"You can't look at the report and say it's 100 per cent or it's zero," he said. "There's going to be some type of mix and match in the process, and obviously some types of changes."

Attrition is not a benign process, said Carroll, and cuts, especially to special education, will affect students.

"Special ed is more of an obligation I think for us than any other area of program delivery. You want to make sure that those who need extra help get it," he said.

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