What to do about the TCDSB deficit

In a March meeting, the TCDSB discussed the options around dealing with a multi-million dollar deficit

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is trying to find out how to deal with a $16.9 million deficit. There are reports that this is the number the board will be facing after accounting revisions reversed what initially looked like a surplus.

In a meeting on March 3, the board discussed a range of possibilities to make up for the shortfall; mostly job cuts that would become effective in September.

Both the TCDSB and its public counterpart, the TDSB, have found themselves in deficits. The main concern for both boards is that the cuts will come at a cost for students, but TCDSB trustees say that they’re trying to keep the changes as distant from the students as possible across East York and the rest of Toronto.

“It’s pretty clear we understand where some of the major structural deficits are,” said trustee Jo-Ann Davis. “We know we’re going to have to make some decisions around those, but I’m not going to feel comfortable or confident making a decision until I understand what the impact of that is to our students.”

Trustee Maria Rizzo’s statements to the media about wanting to involve the public in the decision-making process in an open and transparent manner were challenged in the meeting when Mario Bernardo, president of the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT), spoke.

“How can the TCDSB claim transparency when the stakeholders that are amongst the most directly impacted are not privy to the circumstances that got us to where we are and are not properly consulted on the best way to get to where we need to go?” Bernardo asked the board.

He suggested that the board be “intensive and authentic” in their considerations of what cuts to make.

“If we fail to broaden the scope of this discussion, and fail to thoughtfully examine all other avenues of savings, we will be stripping all of our libraries of our teacher-librarians, classrooms of valuable resources and staff, and perhaps harshest of all, we will be stripping indispensable support from the children in our system,” Bernardo said.

In the coming months, the TCDSB will have to delineate the areas where they will be making cuts in order to start trimming the deficit. In addition to this task, the board says that it is also facing a significantly smaller amount of funding from the ministry of education. It says it is expecting $26.75 million less for the upcoming school year.

In a document entitled “Deficit Recovery Options and Financial Forecast,” two options are discussed that will bring the board back to a balanced budget within three years.

The report was created with assistance from financial experts who have been hired to assist in dealing with the deficit. The report includes grant reductions and expenditure reductions of $32.55 million.