Toronto school board swallows tough cuts

The Toronto district school board has avoided provincial intervention after passing a controversial budget vote.

After an emotionally charged six-hour debate, the board voted to slash its $84.5-million deficit with a series of cuts and a large budget transfer.

Since Ontario school boards are legally required to pass a balanced budget, the voting determined whether the TDSB would keep control of its own budget or if a provincially-appointed supervisor would take over.

Trustee Sheine Mankovsky is one of several voters who adamantly opposed provincial supervision by any means.

“’Hold up a rubber duck and call it a balanced buget’

If you hold up a rubber duck and call it a balanced budget, I’ll vote for it,” she said. “(A supervisor) will mean the end of democratic dialogue in our system,” she said.

Trustee John Campbell, chair of administration, finance and accountability for the TDSB, urged dissenting trustees to be pragmatic. “I don’t want to lose control of the board, but a supervisor will make these cuts anyway,” he said.

“(If you vote against the proposed budget) you’re still going to lose your cause.”

The budget shortfall was resolved with cuts to many programs, including $40 million in maintenance spending, $1.5 million in professional development programs and delaying the purchase of new computers, saving another $5 million.

Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher strongly opposed the cuts and had harsh words for the TDSB.

Caught between despair and unmitigated rage

“I’m caught between despair for the future of this board and unmitigated rage,” she said tearfully. “We’re behaving reprehensibly and stupidly and I absolutely despair for the future.”

The provincial government bore the brunt of the criticism for the budget problem. Many in attendance criticized the province’s school-funding formula as inadequate, forcing school boards to make huge cuts.

“(The TDSB) is just doing what the province wants,” said board member Errol Young. “The province’s funding formula doesn’t work, so they want us to do their dirty work.”