Ottawa public school board proposes staff cuts to help address 2023-24 budget deficit

Ottawa’s largest school board is looking to cut 21 discretionary staff positions for the 2023-24 school year, as it deals with a projected multi-million dollar budget deficit.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board will finalize the academic staffing plan for the new school year on Monday night, the first step of the annual budget process.

The board is facing a projected $15 million to $20 million budget deficit for the 2023-24 school year due to a rise in operating costs, the discontinuation of COVID-19 funding from the Ontario government and increasing costs for replacing absent teachers.

In a report for Monday’s meeting, staff recommend a reduction of 21.23 discretionary academic staff positions for 2023-24, saving an estimated $2.33 million.

“Recognizing that the number of positions is small relative to the number of academic staffing positions, it is expected that this savings target can be achieved through attrition,” staff say.

The recommended cuts include 8 instructional coaches in elementary schools, 6 instructional coaches in secondary schools, two elementary special education learning support consultants, 3.57 FTE positions for primary special needs classes and 5.83 FTE positions for learning support teachers in secondary special education.

The proposed budget for academic staffing in elementary and secondary schools is $528 million next school year, which provides for 4,938.67 full-time equivalent positions. Staff say there will be 151 new FTE positions in elementary schools and 39 more FTE positions in secondary schools for 2023-24 than the 2022-23 school year.

Academic staffing accounts for approximately 60 to 65 per cent of the total OCDSB operating budget, and includes school-based and central teaching positions.

With the $2.3 million in savings through the elimination of 21 staffing positions, staff say the OCDSB still needs to find between $13 million and $18 million in savings in the non-academic staffing parts of the budget to balance the books for the 2023-24 school year.

OCDSB facing $15 million to $20 million deficit

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board is waiting for information from the Ministry of Education about provincial funding for the 2023-24 school year.  Staff say there has been ongoing contact with the ministry and other school board partners to learn about provincial transfer payments for the new school year.

“At the time of this report, the provincial budget released on March 27, 2023 does not indicate any substantive funding for increased cost pressures or new initiatives in education,” staff say in the report. “We remain hopeful that the Grants for Student Needs will address some of these cost pressures.”

Staff say they have been reviewing budgets, expenditures and forecasts and implementing cost control measures for the current year to offset future shortfalls.

Trustees were told in February the projected deficit for the 2023-24 school year was between $9 million and $39 million, and that number has been reduced to a projected $15 million to $20 million shortfall.

Staff say reserve funds have been “depleted” and the board does not have the accumulated funds in reserve to continue running a deficit budget.  The OCDSB had a “healthy accumulated surplus” in 2019, but used a large portion of the accumulated surplus to cover COVID-19 related costs.

For the 2022-23 school year, the board used $9 million in surplus cash for operating budgets.

The full 2023-24 OCDSB budget is expected to be approved by the end of June.

View original article here Source