EMSB votes for bigger deficit over spending cuts

The English Montreal School Board is defying a request from the Quebec government to slash almost $4 million in spending from this year's $275 million budget.

Board defies provincial government demand for cuts and approves new budget that runs $5.2 million deficit

Angela Mancini is set to win back her seat as the EMSB chairperson (CBC)

The English Montreal School Board is defying a request from the Quebec government to slash almost $4 million in spending from this year's $275 million budget.

Instead, the EMSB passed a new budget Tuesday night that will run a deficit of $5.2 million.

The province had asked the school board to cut $3.8 million from its budget. 

The board agreed to give the province $1.4 million in revenue from its adult education and vocational programs, but refused to make any new cuts.

School boards across the province are struggling to adopt their budgets for the new academic year as the Quebec Ministry of Education imposes overall cuts.

Education minister Yves Bolduc threatened to audit Montreal's French school board when it resisted the province's orders to cut $9 million from its budget, saying the savings weren't possible.

A spokeswoman for Bolduc told CBC News on Wednesday that the government expects the province's school boards to conform with its call for cuts.

"We are firm on this," said Yasmine Abdelfadel.

EMSB Chair Angela Mancini told CBC News that the board was looking at a zero deficit budget before the province told it to reduce spending. 

She said there are simply no services they can cut that won't affect students directly.

“With the amount of cuts that we’ve had as a school board, and it if it means that we’re not going to touch our student services directly, I’m very prepared to accept that kind of a deficit,” she told CBC News.

However, not everyone is convinced the EMSB can’t afford to cut more.

Anne Lagace Dowson, who is challenging Mancini for Chair of the EMSB in its upcoming elections, pointed to the school board’s headquarters as proof that administrative costs could be reduced.

“The building is very elegant and one could wonder if this is an appropriate home for the school board at this point,” she said.

Lagacé Dowson said declining enrolment in EMSB schools also means a potential drop in funding, and tough decisions are likely inevitable.

The EMSB elections are scheduled for November 2.