TDSB cuts $46M to balance budget

The Toronto District School Board has voted to cut more than $46 million in order to balance its budget. School cafeterias are on the chopping block and user fees are set to rise.

'It's great news'

It took four hours of debate but the Toronto District School Board has approved a new 2012-13 budget that includes a further $46 million in cuts.

Board chair Chris Bolton said he was pleased the board had managed to find $46.4 million in savings to wipe out the total $109 million shortfall from its $3 billion budget.

"It's great news," Bolton said after the budget was passed.

The cuts will affect school cafeterias and hike the fees schools charge to groups that use their facilities. 

The new user fees will mean increases of about 60 per cent in the past two years.

The board estimates the closing of 32 money-losing cafeterias will save it $600,000.

Other major reductions include:

  • $9.9 million in cuts to maintenance
  • $3.9 million to administration
  • $4.5 million in teacher development
  • $1 million to close unused classrooms

The board has also asked the province to help it find an extra $1 million in internal savings.

That money will be used to fund special education, student services and grants to local school budgets.

Some have complained that the budget cuts are a reminder of the cuts school boards faced under the Harris government more than a decade ago.

But in an interview with CBC News, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten said the money delivered to the TDSB has been rising — and the board is required to deliver a balanced budget.

"It's critical that they [TDSB] deliver a budget within balance — that's the obligation — but it's also recognizing that public services have to be delivered in a sustainable way, or we won't have them in the way that we want them in the future," she said

"The TDSB has challenges in respect to declining enrolment.  While we've increased, significantly, the funds to the TDSB since we've come to office — 34 per cent increase since 2003 — during that time the TDSB has seen a decline of 34,000 students.  That's about 12 per cent and they'll be losing more again this year," Broten said. 

But there are those who says the money just isn't there for some important services.

Some trustees expressed concerns over proposed cuts to special education, social workers and psychologists.  In the end those services were spared the axe.

Trustee Cathy Danby said as many as 52,000 students in TDSB schools have a mental illness.

"Only about one-fifth of them get treatment. The government has invested money in mental health, but we can't then be taking it away out of our own services in order to balance our budget."

Wednesday's meeting was the second of two for TDSB trustees to balance the budget.

In April the board voted to eliminate hundreds of jobs.

Wednesday night's vote makes up the remaining part of the $109 million total.