Toronto Catholic District School board chair Michael Del Grande says that human error and an inadequate system of checks and balances in the board’s accounting department led to the nearly $17-million deficit.

TCDSB dealing with a $16.9-million shortfall due to accounting error

  • March 4, 2015

TORONTO - An accounting error in the previous budget means that the Toronto Catholic District School Board is expected to end this school year with a $16.9-million deficit.

“It is a knock-you-off-your-chair kind of problem,” said Mike Del Grande, chair of the board. “No one expected this was going to be coming when everybody thought we were going to be pretty close to accumulated surplus. We went from an accumulated surplus to a major shortfall which was compounded because the current year was based upon the numbers of the previous year.”

Last fall the error was discovered in the 2013-2014 budget causing an unanticipated $9-million shortfall in employee benefits. Since those estimated figures were used in the current budget without adjustment, the board is now projecting the $16.9-million deficit this year and a $22-million deficit next year if no corrections are made. This could lead to up to 300 job losses.

By provincial law, school boards must have balanced budgets.

The cause, said Del Grande, is a combination of human error and an inadequate system of checks and balances within the accounting department.

“The systems and procedures that should have been in place to catch this were not adequate enough,” he said, adding that some personnel changes have since occurred. “This wasn’t caught until the fourth quarter was basically over and this should have been caught a lot sooner.

There were some basic fundamentals that fell through the cracks.”

Making this news harder to swallow, the board had approved a modest $5.16 million in reductions this past January, slashing non-academic professional development and funding for teaching supplies. Now more cuts will have to come, but the question is who will make them.  

“Either the trustees will do the reorganization that the staff is recommending to get us back in line with the law or they’ll turn around and have the ministry do it on their behalf without any kind of representation from trustees,” said Del Grande.

Adding to the challenge is the Ministry of Education’s desire to claw back up to two per cent of its funding per board.

And as a board that typically runs a structural deficit — meaning it frequently underfunds certain areas to increase resources in other areas — the cuts that are necessary are really going to hurt, said Angela Gauthier.

“It is difficult but we do have to make reductions to live within our means,” said the director of education. “When you are clawing back it is always hard because people get used to a certain level of service... That’s going to be our challenge (but) ... it is time for us to build for the future so that we are viable.”

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