Toronto Catholic school board proposed $3.8-million in cuts

Toronto Catholic school board proposed $3.8-million in cuts: “

By Natalie Alcoba’

The Toronto Catholic District School Board recommended cutting $3.8-million off a $14-million deficit after four hours of budget deliberations last night.

It also decided to set aside one hour on Monday to allow public delegations about what should stay and what else should go.

‘If were going to have a balanced budget, its going to be no later than Monday night,’ trustee Oliver Carroll said last night during the second meeting in three days dedicated to the boards books.

The board recommended to cut contract youth workers, supply educational assistants, trustee services, an integrity commissioner and a school fund for things like textbooks to save $3.3-million.’By slashing four program coordinators,’it would save another’$480,000. The TCDSB annual budget is about $900-million.

‘This is tough,’ said trustee Maria Rizzo as trustees picked up the pace of the meeting and directed staff to draw up a new list of budget cuts, which would be voted on Monday. ‘I wish I could press a delete button on this year, but I cant.’

The TCDSB faces a possible provincial takeover on account of its finances and a scandal over questionable trustee expenses.

Kathleen Wynne, the Education Minister, has asked an investigator to report back to her by Wednesday as to whether or not trustees can fix lax policies and get rid of a deficit without a supervisor taking charge. In Ontario, all school boards are required to submit balance budgets.

Early in the meeting yesterday many board members had weary looks on their faces as they grappled with the realization that they had left themselves with few places to cut. An earlier board decision protects all unionized jobs for the first semester of the next school year.’But trustees voted’last night to allow staff to’lay off more than 80 teachers who have been deemed ‘surplus’ due to declining enrolment in December, which amounts to about $4-million in savings, staff said last night.

Staff were asked how much money could be saved by freezing the salaries of about 450 non-unioned employees, which includes principals and vice-principals. Ms. Rizzo also suggested saving in areas like furniture — the board spends about $1.3-million to refurbish equipment and furniture, about half of which is spent on the classroom. Renovations to the board headquarters, non essential travel for staff and non essential maintenance should also be suspended, trustees said.

Mr. Carroll suggested that the whole exercise of balancing the books may not avoid a takeover, since the Education Minister may be intent on ‘teaching us a lesson.’

‘I dont know what that lesson would be,’ said Mr. Carroll. After a supervisor comes and goes, ‘the same people around this table will, in essense, get the keys to the car.’

Called by both insiders and outsiders as dysfunctional, the TDCSB came under intense scruitiny over an expense account scandal.

In a report released this month, provincial advisor Norbert Hartmann detailed a number of questionable spending practices by the board of 12 elected trustees, including members who claimed twice for the same expense, nepotism and one trustee who spent $7,500 on a masters of education. Mr. Hartmann was asked to look into the boards affairs after various apparent violations garnered headlines in the press. One trustee is alleged to have claimed tropical vacations, a $575 purchase from Tiffany and Co. and an online purchase from a lingerie store as school-related expenses, which were later paid back.

(Via National.)

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