More budget woes forecast for school boards

By  Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
  • January 5, 2007
TORONTO - The Catholic school board in the rich and growing suburbs squeezed in between Toronto and Hamilton is worried.

"Our administration is concerned about a balanced budget for next year," said Pauline Houlihan, rookie Halton Catholic District School Board trustee for Oakville.

That concern prompted the board to pass a motion urging the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association to continue petitioning Queen's Park to close the funding gap on teacher salaries.

OCSTA president Bernard Murray is not surprised boards of education have started passing motions to urge their lobbyists to do exactly what they have been doing the past two years.

"We keep putting pressure on the government to address this situation," Murray told The Catholic Register.

Halton's isn't the only Catholic board worried about balancing its books. In 2006 the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board both fought public battles with Queen's Park over the red ink in their budgets, with different results. Dufferin-Peel ended up with a provincially appointed supervisor running its financial affairs. Toronto voted to adopt the budget strategy recommended by a provincially appointed panel.

Trustees and administrators at both these big boards spent 2006 telling anyone who would listen their financial woes aren't unique, and that 2007 will see more boards filing deficit budgets or overspending on budgets they knew they never could meet.

"I don't have my head in the sand," said Murray. "I realize that there are going to be some boards that probably will have difficulty."

Murray refused to estimate how many boards will run out of options before they have to file balanced budgets in August. But he's ready for some school board budgets to collapse under the weight of fiscal reality.

"I wouldn't say I would be shocked," Murray said.

Boards filed their final budget estimates for 2007-2008 Dec. 15. By mid-January the OCSTA should know how many Catholic boards are projecting deficits, Murray said.

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