TCDSB chair Mike Del Grande Photo courtesy of Carol McDonald

Provincial cuts to TCDSB not as drastic as expected

By 
  • April 9, 2015

TORONTO - Toronto’s Catholic school board will still see fewer dollars from the provincial Grants for Student Needs next school year.

On March 26 the Ministry of Education announced the province would provide Ontario school boards with $22.5 billion through the Grants for Student Needs for the 2015-2016 school year, the same figure as this year. But Mike Del Grande, chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said the province’s largest Catholic board will get a smaller slice of that pie.

“They haven’t changed it, the budget is stable from the government’s point of view, but what they have done is that they have redistributed the funds from larger urban boards to more of the rural boards,” said Del Grande.

The board will receive $1.012 billion — about 0.79 per cent less or $8 million — in Grants for Student Needs dollars. That’s better than the two-per-cent cut the board had been anticipating while attempting to tackle a $17-million budget deficit caused by an accounting error regarding benefit payouts.

“It’s roughly $8 million,” said Del Grande. “What they are doing is they are taking that $8 million and they are moving it out to other boards across the province.”

The reallocation is the result of changing enrolment figures, according to the ministry.

“Any changes in funding for the 2015-2016 school year are due to both enrolment changes and realigning funding away from empty spaces in classrooms to focus on student programming and improved facilities,” said Gary Wheeler, a ministry spokesperson. “We believe it is more important to invest in programs and supports for students rather than empty seats in classrooms.”

Enrolment has been on the decline at the Toronto Catholic board since 2005-2006 when 87,522 students were registered. Last year that figure had dropped to 84,003.

Catholic boards in Hamilton-Wentworth, Simcoe-Muskoka and Huron-Perth have also seen declines during this same period. However, they are among the boards receiving an increase in Grants for Student Needs.

“TCDSB is also in a different situation than other boards as they must address a projected budget deficit of $17 million,” said Wheeler, adding that the ministry has given the board until 2017-2018 to address the overspending.

The board plans job cuts to deal with the deficit.

“Yes positions will be reduced but that is a natural occurrence when you don’t have as much money to spend as you did previously,” said Del Grande.

Central program positions at the board and professional development are being targeted and a number of elementary and secondary vice-principal positions are in jeopardy, as well as 42 teacher-librarian posts.

“We are not looking at individual teachers losing their positions,” said Gary Pool, the board’s associate director of education. “The proposals that we have put forward right now we are looking at a reduction of about 2.7 per cent out of the classroom and we are looking at a reduction of about 8.8 per cent out of the admin and non-classroom. The majority of that is board level.”

Thanks to an extension regarding contract negotiations with elementary and secondary teachers, the board has until April 15 to finalize any job cuts.

“Our trigger point where we need to have surplus letters out would be by the 15th of April,” said Pool. “We’ve heard lots of consultation both at the board level and online trying to make the reductions best as possible to mitigate the impact at the classroom level. Through all the different types of consultations and the extension we believe we are moving towards that and that we will meet the timelines.”  

Where else these reductions will be felt won’t be known for sure until the board tables its budget later this year.

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