The Toronto District School Board says it will be spending $40.4 million from its reserve funds in the upcoming school year budget, due in part to the Ford government not reimbursing it for COVID-19 costs.
The projected deficit also stems from ongoing provincial funding shortfalls in a number of areas and declining enrolment, the board said in a statement late Wednesday evening, adding this would lead to a small number of staff job losses over three years.
“While every effort has been made to ensure that the deficit reduction measures have a limited impact on programs and services for students, it is clear that the TDSB would be in a much more stable financial position if we had adequate ministry funding and if we were not facing funding shortfalls in a number of areas,” said TDSB chair Alexander Brown.
The TDSB, Canada’s largest school board, said it has paid $69 million in pandemic costs since March 2020 that have not been reimbursed by Ontario’s Ministry of Education. The school board has also lost $64 million due to fewer international student enrolments and the loss of other revenue streams such as permits, continuing education fees and cafeteria sales, it said.
Eighteen administrative staff positions will be eliminated in the first year of its three-year budget outlook, the school board added, with another 50 to 70 jobs lost in the following two years as the TDSB explores “a transition to a more decentralized support model” with training provided directly to school staff instead of through central teachers and coaches.
The budget proposal was designed to avoid a significant impact on programs and services in the first year, it said, with measures eyed for the second and third years pending a possible enrolment boost, funding improvement and the school board’s own revenue-generating strategies.
Ahead of last month’s provincial election, in which Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives were re-elected to a majority government, the TDSB asked all parties to commit to better support for the public education system.
It said the next government should reimburse school boards for all pandemic-related expenses, fully fund its pandemic recovery plan, reinstate enrolment stabilization funding and provide additional funding to cover higher employee benefits costs, utilities and other expenses not currently covered.
“Should these costs be reimbursed to school boards, these supports would be sufficient to address the TDSB’s projected deficit,” it said.
Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer