MUSKOKA - Trillium Lakelands District School Board is considering a draft budget that will put the board almost $5 million over budget for the 2012-13 school year.
The deficit is a planned drawdown of the approximately $19 million the board currently has in accumulated surplus.
Bob Kaye, superintendent of business for the board, presented an overview of the draft deficit budget to trustees last week (May 8). Of the $202 million in revenue expected for the 2012-13 year, 77 per cent will go toward salaries and benefits for the board, eight per cent to transportation costs, six per cent to textbooks and supplies, four per cent to school operations and maintenance, four per cent to amortization and interest on debt, and one per cent to administrative overhead, he explained.
Funding for additional classrooms, program and infrastructure supports will require $4,734,000 from the board’s accumulated surplus, which has built up over a number of years, as a result of the board not using all of the funding granted by the ministry.
“The money is available,” said Kaye. “The surplus balance isn’t doing any good by just sitting and not being used.”
The Ministry of Education allows school boards to dip into reserves by up to one per cent of their operating budget without permission. However, a greater drawdown requires ministry approval.
For TLDSB, any drawdown over $1,839,000 would require approval. With a planned deficit of $4,734,000, the board is asking permission to use reserves in an amount equal to more than 2.5 per cent of their current operating budget this year with plans to continue to draw down in excess of one per cent for the subsequent three years as well.
“There’s no intention to wipe it out,” said Kaye. “It’s just to draw it down and utilize the surplus that’s there n CONTINUED ON PAGE 16
for our programming needs as they exist now.”
“It relies entirely on the ministry to say yea or nay to school boards withdrawing from reserves,” director of education Larry Hope explained to trustees. “This is very deliberate on our part. We are very nervous about what the ministry may choose to do.”
Hope went over the revised surplus management plan with trustees. In addition to $3,390,000 in previously agreed upon initiatives, including the ongoing funding of instructional leads, the teachers’ earn a laptop program, supplies, materials and staffing for specialist high skills majors, classroom soundfields, restorative practice training, and mental health staffing and training, as well as some infrastructure supports, all of which were already planned over-budget expenditures for next year, the board has added a few more “big ticket projects we’d really like to take on, on behalf of our students,” said Hope.
These amount to an additional $1,344,000 and include accelerating the installation of elementary classroom soundfields to finish up next year instead of spreading it over the next three years, the development of learning commons in high schools to complement school libraries, replacement of reading assessment kits, funding of program enhancements such as Yearley and music programs where ministry funding ends this year, beefing up the guest network servers and support to acknowledge the increased usage by students particularly at the high school level, a math camp for TLDSB teachers to be held in the summer, crisis prevention and intervention training for educational assistants, costs to maintain the new social media strategy, and $300,000 for furniture and accessories to outfit the new Bracebridge Education Centre currently under construction and expected to be complete by June 30, 2013.
When deciding whether or not to approve accumulated surplus spending, the ministry will look at the planned projects that are driving the deficit, said Kaye, and whether they are ongoing and need reliable funding into the future or are fixed-time expenditures with an end in sight.
“I think the same as any year they may have some questions for us; they may give us a warning about long-term sustainability,” said Hope. “That’s why a lot of this is time bound.”
The board’s trustees are expected to give the go-ahead to approach the ministry for its approval to use a portion of the board’s accumulated surplus to help fund the 2012-13 budget at the May 22 board meeting. Once the ministry’s OK is received, the final budget is expected be approved by trustees at the June 12 board meeting.