HomeSudbury News

Boards balance budgets, but worry for future

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jul 03, 2014 - 11:21 AM |
After several years with an accumulated deficit, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board anticipates it will eliminate its debt next year. But board chair Jody Cameron said the province may be planning cuts, and this could impact boards' finances. File photo.

After several years with an accumulated deficit, the Sudbury Catholic District School Board anticipates it will eliminate its debt next year. But board chair Jody Cameron said the province may be planning cuts, and this could impact boards' finances. File photo.

Provincial deficit could mean cuts: Sudbury Catholic

There may be a few unpleasant surprises from the provincial government that could affect school boards' finances, say representatives of the local English public and Catholic school boards.

Sudbury Catholic District School Board chair Jody Cameron said the province has a significant deficit, and will likely be looking for ways to bring that deficit under control.

“Education's a big portfolio, and there may be impacts going forward,” he said.

“I would imagine there's going to be some changes coming forward to try and find those efficiencies to reduce the burden to taxpayers.”

Both Cameron and Norm Blaseg — director of education with the Rainbow District School Board — said they're also closely watching the current provincial-level negotiations between teachers' unions and the government.


A labour dispute between the province and teachers' unions in 2012 and 2013 resulted in teachers' withdrawal from extracurricular activities.

“What we don't know is what the impact of the new collective agreements will be,” Blaseg said.

“Obviously we have to be prepared for whatever that brings, and that's not up to us. That's going to be decided at the provincial tables.

“I mean, no matter what, we will implement what they provide us, and we will do what we have to do to make it work.”

The fact the Liberals now have a majority government in Ontario may provide some stability to the education sector, he said.

“Hopefully because of the clear mandate that this government was able to bring forward as a result of the election, we'll have some clarity not just for this year, but for the next four years,” Blaseg said.

For now, though, both the Sudbury Catholic and Rainbow boards are projecting balanced budgets for the next financial year. They're also anticipating balanced budgets for the current financial year, which ends Aug. 31.

Not long ago, the financial situation wasn't as rosy, with Sudbury Catholic running a $4-million accumulated deficit in 2012-2013, and the Rainbow board cutting 45 positions a year ago to balance its books.

Thanks to a recovery plan to find savings — including reducing its principal and vice-principal positions — Sudbury Catholic anticipates it will have eliminated its accumulated deficit by the end of 2014-2015.

Not only that, it projects an operational surplus of $58,056 next year.

Now it's a case of building up the board's reserves once again so it has a cushion in case of unforeseen expenses, Cameron said. He said he'd like to see the reserves at $1 million to $1.5 million.

Both boards say they've seen a boost in funding for 2014-2015 because the province's full-day kindergarten program has now been fully rolled out.

The Rainbow board said it's receiving $5.5 million more in provincial funding this year, largely because of full-day kindergarten, allowing it to hire 10 more elementary teachers and 15 more early childhood educators.

Both boards are also receiving a boost to their special education funding because of changes to the funding formula.

The way special education funding worked before, some boards received more funding than others.

“We were getting $400 per pupil, and another board was getting $1,200,” Cameron said.

He said Sudbury Catholic has been lobbying to end this inequity for years, and the province finally responded.

“There was an increase in special education funding from the ministry to the tune of $1.2 million, which helps tremendously,” Cameron said.

“That allows us to put back some of the resources that we had to remove as part of the recovery plan two years ago.”
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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