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Frequently Asked Questions


Have questions about the 2021 - 2022 Budget Consultation? Find answers to questions about the following topics:


General


1. When does the TCDSB approve next year’s budget and when does the budget year start?
The TCDSB budget development process starts in March each year and is typically approved in June for the following year. In some years the budget has been approved later into the summer because of delays in funding announcement from the Ministry of Education. The budget year (also called fiscal year) aligns closely with the school year and starts on September 1st of each year. 

2. What is included in the TCDSB budget and why is it important? 
The TCDSB budget is one of the most important plans approved by the Board of Trustees each year. The Budget provides the financial framework for which staff will work within to deliver academic programs and services for coming school year. The Budget provides high-level financial parameters for all spending including staffing levels, services, technology, and school building maintenance. 

3. What is a balanced budget and what does it mean to run a deficit budget? 
A balanced budget is one where all the revenues (funding) for a given year matches all the planned expenditures (costs) for that same year. A deficit exists when a school board plans to spend more than they plan to accept in revenue. Deficits are rare and are typically covered with accumulated reserves (savings) from previous years, if they are available. 

4. Why does the TCDSB need to balance its budget, it has run deficits before?
School Boards are required by the law (Education Act) to have balanced budgets. Similar to all public sector entities, School Boards are expected to act in a fiscally responsible manner. Any significant deficits must be approved by the Ministry of Education and are typically accompanied by a deficit reduction plan. 

5. Can the TCDSB raise taxes or other revenue to balance the budget? 
School boards lost the ability to charge or raise tax revenues in 1990s. Currently, almost all the revenue school boards receive are from the Ministry of Education. The revenues are based on a per student funding model called the Grant for Student Needs (GSN). 

6. Can the TCDSB take money from capital projects (new buildings) and use that help balance its yearly operating budget? 
No. The Ministry of Education prohibits the use of capital project funding for yearly operating expenses. Capital funding must be used for its intended project. 

7. How will next year’s Ministry of Education funding announcement impact on students and programs? 
Depending on the priorities and fiscal position of the Provincial government, announcements can have negative and/or positive impacts on students and programs. Funding amounts for the coming school year are typically announced in April or May. After the announcement, the TCDSB will finalize the following year’s budget in line with government funding and under the direction of the Board of Trustees. 

8. Can the TCDSB spend its yearly revenue/funding on anything it wants?
No. There are many government restrictions and regulations that the TCDSB must follow when planning its expenditures. Example restrictions include but at not limited to using special education grants only for Special Education students, meeting class size regulation, and using maintenance and renewal grants only building components and associated services. 

9. If the Government controls most of the funding and tells TCDSB how to spend it, what is the point of getting feedback on the budget?
School boards still do have some flexibility in determining the mix of programming services to students. Your feedback and input is still important and even small changes can make a meaningful impact. Comments and suggestions received during the budget consultation process guide decisions of the Board of Trustees in setting the final budget. 

10. Will local school fundraising be expected to manage any funding short falls? 
No. Parent fundraising is never meant to replace core funding for student needs. Every student has the right to attend a publicly funded Ontario school without the payment of fees or requirements for fundraising for learning materials, supplies, activities or textbooks that are needed to graduate. Fund raising activities should focus on enriching the experience of students and build a broader sense of community. The Ministry of Education has provided a fundraising guideline for local Catholic School Parent Councils. 


Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic 


11. Were there any savings this year, as a result COVID-19 or distance learning, that can help next year? 
No. In the current 2020-21 school year the TCDSB has spent a lot more than was received in funding from the Provincial Government. TCDSB is projecting a $42 million deficit this year. These funds were used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and include such things as enhanced cleaning, improvements to buildings, personal protective equipment for staff, additional cleaning staff, and more teachers for lower class sizes. 

12. How will the TCDSB ensure that schools are cleaned and disinfected daily in order to meet higher standards of health and safety? Will caretaker staffing increase? 
The TCDSB’s Environmental Support Services and Occupational Health & Safety Departments will be working in compliance with Provincial regulations and taking direction from the Toronto Public Health Authorities in order to ensure all TCDSB facilities are maintained according to the required standards of care. The need for additional caretaking staff requirements is not yet known at this time.   

13. What impact will the COVID-19 pandemic have on next year’s budget?
The impact for next year is not yet known and will depending on many factors such as enrollment, government funding, demands for virtual learning, vaccinations, and other health protocols. 

14. What impact has the pandemic had on revenue from international student tuition fees? 
There has been a significant decline in revenues as the number of new students joining the TCDSB has dropped. International education staff are monitoring the situation closely and adjustments will be made in the fall as necessary to match the actual demand.  

15. Is the Board asking the Province to provide additional funding to offset any costs associated with COVID-19? 
TCDSB staff and trustees are constantly advocating for additional funding with the Ministry of Education and the government in general. This advocacy includes many discussions with Ministry staff, school associations, as well as discussion amongst political leaders and support groups. Typically, when funding is increased by the Government, it is increased equally to all school boards, not just the TCDSB. 

16. Are student nutrition programs at risk of cuts due to the financial fall out from the global pandemic? Is the Board committed to ensuring that these continue next year? 
The student nutrition programs administered by the Angel Foundation are funded by the City of Toronto and the Provincial Government. The TCDSB contributes $100,000 to the Angel Foundation for this program every year, and in 2021 approved an additional $100,000 in funding. 


Staffing 


17. Will there be any staff reductions for the upcoming budget year? 
Staffing levels will be determined in late March based on student enrollment projections and may be adjusted again in the Fall based on actual enrollment. Staffing levels will always be set based on provincial class size regulation and collective agreements. In the event that staff reductions are necessary, the TCDSB will remain committed to minimizing the impact on students and staff with a continued focus student achievement, well-being, and safety.  

18. What are "non-classroom support resource teachers"? 
Non-classroom support resource teachers (often referred to as just “resource teachers” or “central teachers”) are a grouping of teachers that provide professional development and support for other teachers across the TCDSB. This category also includes teachers that work in highly specialized settings, for example Assessment and Programming Teachers, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teachers.  

19. Is the TCDSB considering any reductions to administrative staff? 
Central Administrative staff perform critical services to support academic programs, schools, and students, while maintaining accountability and stewardship of public resources. Central administrative roles and functions include student admissions, diversity and inclusions, parent engagement, communications, and religion support, along with more traditional roles in Information Technology, Human Resources, Accounting, and Legal services. Over the last several years, the TCDSB has endeavoured to reduce costs in these areas as much as possible. Last year, the TCDSB spent only 2.5% of it is total budget on Governance and Administration. Changes in this area are possible, but they often do not have a significant impact on the overall budget. 

20. Is the cost of the newly negotiated contracts with various employee groups fully covered by provincial grants? 
The provincially negotiated central agreements will be fully funded by adjustments to the provincial funding benchmark rates in the Grants for Student Needs. 


Construction and Facilities


21. What about new schools planned or under construction/renovations?
The Capital Budget is separate from the Board’s Operating Budget. The impact on new schools and major renovations is known as they are announced separately from the yearly operating grants. 

22. If a school is closed and sold, can we use the funds for operations?  
Closing schools is restricted by the Ministry of Education and funds from the sale of property is also restricted to school building maintenance and renovations. 

23. Can we use Education Development Charges (EDC) funding to operate schools?
EDCs are funds the TCDSB collects from property developers during the construction of new buildings and homes in the City of Toronto. These funds are restricted by law and are typically only used land acquisition for future new schools. They cannot be used to operate schools.


Specialized Programs and Services


24. What is 5th Block and how much does this program cost?
5th Block is a small group literacy intervention program for struggling students in Grade 1 to Grade 2, who do not qualify for special education. Fifth block students gain the skills, strategies, and confidence necessary to read at their respective grade level. The costs to run this program is made up of 24 full time teachers at a cost of $2.4M. The program has been part of the TCDSB for almost 20 years. 

25. Will there be any effort to save by cutting religion programming? 
Religion programming and services are fundamental to the mission of the TCDSB as they provide the foundation for student faith development. TCDSB remains committed to maintaining these vital programs for students so that they can achieve the Catholic Graduate Expectations.

26. Will the Board be investing in or reducing French Language/French Immersion programs, depending on its ability to staff programs?
The TCDSB remains committed to the Board of Trustees approved Long-Term Programming Plan, and in particular, the identified French Immersion programs will require an ongoing sustained recruiting effort in order to ensure program service levels are addressed as required. 

27. Why are students taught languages in schools other than French and English?
The day-time International Languages Elementary (ILE) Program provides valuable opportunities to learn a third language and has been part of the TCDSB for decades. The Board recently reviewed this program and re-affirmed its commitment to it. The program cost approximately $6.8M per year and it offered at 44 schools. The program is managed in accordance with Board Policy SP.05 (International Languages Program).  After school International language programs are also offered throughout the TCDSB. 

28. How will the cancelation of the Bell Time optimization plan affect the budget? 
In June 2019, the Board of Trustees voted to optimize bell times (school start times) at 15 schools in order to save on bussing costs. This optimization generated a planned saving of $1.6M per year. The implementation of this change was deferred twice and was to be implemented in September 2021. In February 2021, the Board of Trustees voted to cancel the optimization plan. This means that $1.6M saving must be found in another area of the budget. 


Cost Saving Ideas


29. What has the TCDSB been doing to reduce energy costs? Is there more that could be done?
There are many energy reduction strategies currently underway. The TCDSB has a 5-year Energy Demand Management plan, which is intended to reduce the use of energy significantly. Building retrofits such as more efficient heating/cooling systems and LED lighting will contribute to these targets. 

30. The TCDSB made a commitment to reducing paper use. What is the impact thus far and what more could be done?
The approved Information & Technology Strategic Plan also has a number of strategies including reducing printing across the system and moving to a more digital approach for both student learning and business functions. To date, the TCDSB has reduced printing costs by $20,000 per year and further reductions are planned. 

31. Now that the TCDSB has had some experience with staff working from home for an extended period of time, is this something that should be considered in an effort to save money?
The experience of remote learning and business operations generated significant lessons learned towards maximizing operational efficiencies and utilizing public resources in the most pragmatic manner possible during these challenging times. These lessons will definitely be considered. 

32. Has the Board discussed any revenue generating ideas? For example, increasing lease rates (such as Childcare Centres, Early ON programs) as well as increases to permit rates?
TCDSB always welcomes ideas to generate more revenue; however, these changes must also be balanced with the impacts on local communities served by TCDSB schools.

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