Valley may be next, Catholic board chair says
The Sudbury Catholic District School Board's $2.5-million deficit may force it to launch an accommodation review later this year or next year.
“Our guiding principle is to live within our budget and allocations that are given, and ensure that we have a sustainable budget going forward,” board chair Jody Cameron said, speaking to Northern Life after the board's Feb. 19 meeting.
“That's what we've committed as a board to do. In order to do that, we have to look at all things. That includes some of the planning areas from a program or facilities perspective.”
Accommodation reviews involve an often-controversial process where school boards seek public input on reducing surplus space in schools.
They sometimes result in school closures, as has happened with several Sudbury Catholic schools in the past few years. The same has happened with the board's English public counterpart — the Rainbow District School Board.
If another accommodation review was launched, the board would likely focus on the Valley East area, Cameron said.
“We're a declining enrolment board like others in the province,” he said.
“That continues to be challenging for us. We've always got to constantly look at the different areas. We haven't done the Valley in some time. That's definitely one we're going to have to look at.”
Cameron made his comments in the wake of a Sudbury Catholic staff report which advises against launching any accommodation reviews in the immediate future.
Despite this recommendation, superintendent of business and finance Dennis Bazinet also told Northern Life an accommodation review could be launched later this year or next year as the board wrangles with its budget.
We haven't done the Valley in some time. That's definitely one we're going to have to look at.
He said staff want the board to hold off on any new reviews for now because it already has several large projects underway.
These include the upcoming construction of a new St. David Catholic Elementary School, as well as a new elementary school located next to St. Charles, both of which are slated to be completed in September 2014.
There's also an accommodation review underway for St. Mary Catholic Elementary School in Capreol.
With only 29 students attending the school last year, the board transferred them to St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Hanmer last fall.
Although the move was made with the approval of parents, the board still had to go through a formal accommodation review process, Bazinet said.
He noted the attendance at the four public meetings held as part of the review has been very low. Board staff will make a recommendation to trustees regarding St. Mary at the May school board meeting, Bazinet said.
In terms of the budget, Cameron said the board is working with a third-party consultant to review its books. A report on how to eliminate the deficit over the next three years to come forward is expected sometime in March.
“We've hired a third party to come in and do a review of all our programs and all of our operating departments,” he said.
“We'll compare that to our funding levels to see if there's shortfalls and to see if there's areas of improvement. That work's been ongoing for many weeks now.”
Cameron told Northern Life in January that the plan is being developed with some “guiding principles” in mind, including mitigating the impact on students and staff. Whenever possible, job cuts will be done through attrition, he said.