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Toronto Catholic District School Board

 

 

Budget 2020-2021

Frequently Asked Questions

 

General Information

 

Q: Why does the Board need to balance its budget, it has run deficits before?

A: School Boards are required by the Education Act to have balanced budgets or risk action imposed by the Ministry of Education such as being put under direct supervision. Similar to all public sector entities, School Boards are expected to act in a fiscally responsible manner. Planning deficits without an appropriate recovery plan is not considered to be a responsible use of valuable tax payer dollars. 

 

Q: What will the Ministry announcements impact be on students and programs?

A: Depending on the priorities and fiscal position of the Provincial government, announcements can have negative and/or positive impacts on students and programs. Our top priority is to ensure that the Ministry’s announcements do not adversely impact student achievement, if negative or are targeted in the right areas should they be positive investments. That is why your feedback and input is important. Comments and suggestions received not only guide our decision but these continue to be helpful to us as we prepare the 2020-2021 budget priorities for the Board.

 

Q: Were there any budget savings this year as a result of labour disruptions and distance learning (for example decreased transportation and facilities costs)?

A: There was reduced spending realized in some operational areas, i.e. Occasional staffing costs and student bussing services, due to the unusual circumstances this year, while the Board saw an increase in expenditures in others areas during the same period. We anticipate that the savings will offset much of the additional costs incurred associated with procurement of Chromebooks and leasing IPad devices to facilitate distance learning for students without access to such devices and internet capabilities. 

 

Q: Will local parent fundraising be expected to close any newly created gaps if there is no increase to school Block Budgets?

A: Parent fundraising is never meant to close any gaps in funding for student needs. The Ministry of Education has provided strict guidelines that govern fundraising by local parent councils. The Board will continue to adhere to those regulations. TCDSB is committed to ensuring equity, and will continue to explore opportunities to level the playing field for all students to ensure that everyone has access to the same learning opportunities.

 

Q: Will there be any changes to the 2020-2021 School Year Calendar?

A: The status of the 2020-21 school year remains subject to Provincial and Ministry of Education direction, and further announcements will be posted on the TCDSB’s website as soon as it is available.

 

Q: How is the Board planning for Back to School and the potential impact of social distancing on: classroom sizes, staggered school days, teacher/student rations, and overall budget? 

When students return to school, will there be additional support and resources for to address student mental health, students who have fallen behind, and students with special needs?

A: Please visit the frequently asked questions page for information on school reopening’s and more.


Q: How will the Board ensure that schools are cleaned and disinfected daily in order to meet higher standards of health and safety? Will caretaker staffing increase?

A: 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.

 

Q: Is the board working on updating the Website and making it more user friendly? Especially for CPIC and CSPC's?

A: The board is continually working to make improvements to the website in order to ensure students and families are able to easily access the information they need. Important information and announcements can also be found on the board’s Twitter page. There is currently a project underway for a major refresh of the website, which is expected to roll out within the next 6 to 12 months.

 

Q: How were the survey items determined for inclusion? Why were other areas not on the list for public consideration? For example, facilities costs, extended day and after hours International Languages program costs, etc.

On the survey the only one area had the spending amount listed was Special Education. Why did the survey not include costs for all areas?

A: The list of survey items represents the majority of programs and service levels impacting upon the majority of students, however, the list is not inclusive of all the many valued programs and services offered by the TCDSB. Further stakeholder input regarding the other programs and services are always welcomed in the open-ended questions appearing in the budget consultation survey or by delegation to the Board of Trustees. 


Staffing 


Q: Will there be any staff reductions for the upcoming budget year?

A: In the event of staff reductions due to program changes or reductions to the overall number of students, the Board remains committed to minimizing the impact on students and staff in the classroom. This includes our goal to achieve any reductions to full-time positions first through retirements, attrition or program delivery restructuring where possible. 

 

Q: What are "non-classroom support resource teachers"?

A: Non-classroom support resource teachers are a grouping of teachers that include curriculum resource teachers that provide professional learning and support for teachers in the TCDSB classrooms. There are other teachers such as Assessment and Programming teachers, Deaf and Hard of Hearing teachers that are part of this category. 

 

Q: Is the Board considering any reductions to central administrative staff? 

A: Central Administrative staff perform critical and provincially recognized essential services to support academic programs and services while maintaining accountability and stewardship of public resources. Over the last several years, deep cuts have been made to the central administration. Any further reductions would have detrimental effects to the system as a whole given that front line educational staff rely on important services such as Information Technology, Human Resources and Business Services in order to deliver programs to students. 

 

Q: Is the cost of the newly negotiated contracts with various employee groups fully covered by provincial grants? If not, what is the impact of those new agreements?

A: The provincially negotiated central agreements will be fully funded by adjustments to the provincial funding benchmark rates in the Grants for Student Needs.


Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Q: What impact will the COVID-19 Pandemic have on the Board's budget?

A: It will take time for the total impact to be clear and will also be dependent on the length of school closures.  The majority of the impact will likely be seen on the 2019-20 fiscal year budget rather than the upcoming 2020-2021 budget. The Board has had to take on some additional expenditures to ensure that schools and offices are cleaned and disinfected. The Board has also taken on additional spending in the area of technology in order to ensure that all students in need have access to devices for distance learning. Similarly, the Board will likely also see savings in certain areas such as Transportation and Occasional staff budgets. The net effect will be determined in the coming months. 

 

Q: The Board has said in past years that the international education program generates some revenue. What impact has the health crisis had on income from international student tuition fees, and how will that impact future years’ tuition fees or other programs?

A: The COVID-19 impact upon the international students’ presence in TCDSB schools is currently fluid and unknown at this time. International education staff are monitoring the situation closely and adjustments will be made in the fall as necessary. 

 

Q: Has the Board realized any savings from COVID-related school closures? Did all staff continue to be paid throughout the closure? If some money was saved does the Province claw that back or can that money be used for other areas where there are shortfalls?

A: The TCDSB anticipates savings will arise in areas such as Occasional Teachers and Student Transportation Services among others. As per provincial direction to the education sector, permanent staffing will continue to work remotely to provide distance learning. All full time permanent staff continue to be paid. It unknown at this time what claw backs, if any, will occur at the end of this fiscal year.

 

Q: Is the Board asking the Province to provide additional funding to offset any costs associated with COVID-19?

A: The TCDSB will use the flexibility provided the by existing Grants for Student Needs and the anticipated operational savings in-year to fund and offset any costs associated with Covid-19. The Board of Trustees has approved a motion on May 7 requesting the Ministry of Education to provide recovery funding through the Grants for Student Needs to ensure students’ successful return to the classroom.


Q: Given the board’s experience with distance learning, is the Board looking to expand E-Learning as an option for saving money?

A: The board already offers full credit day-school eLearning for Gr 11 and 12, night school and summer eLearning for Gr 9 to 12, as an option for students. The expanded use of e-Learning instructional strategies would be determined by the terms in the newly negotiated central agreements with teachers.

 

Q: 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?

A: The student nutrition programs administered by the Angel Foundation are funded by the City of Toronto and the Provincial Government, and may be subject to some funding changes. The TCDSB contributes $100,000 to the Angel Foundation for this program.

 

Construction and Facilities

   

Q: What about new schools planned or under construction/renovations?

A: The Capital Budget is separate from the Board’s Operating Budget. The impact on new schools, construction and school facility renovations is undetermined at this time. Staff are monitoring the situation and updates will be provided publicly at Regular Board meetings.  

 

Q: If a school is closed, can we use capital funding for operations? 

A: Capital funding is restricted by the Ministry of Education and may only be used to build specific schools approved by the Ministry of Education. Any unused funds are returned to the Ministry. Capital funding may not be used for general Board costs such as heat and hydro or any other Board initiatives. The Ministry requires regular reporting on all capital projects under way to ensure approved amounts are not exceeded or redirected to operations.

 

Q: Can we use Education Development Charges (EDC) funding to operate schools? 

A: EDC funding is restricted and may only be used for land acquisition/re-development in areas that experience growth. Only schools meeting the growth criteria are eligible for EDC funding. EDC funding may not be used for general Board costs or non-land initiatives.

 

Q: Will staff be recommending that the annual playground fund be cut?

A: TCDSB recognizes the value of active play, and remains committed to continuing with playground renewal as funds permit. Playground renewal is not funded by the operating budget, but rather by any surpluses at year-end, should they occur.  Staff have not made recommendations to consider changing this practice. The Board now has a Policy to govern the distribution of in-year surplus funds to the prescribed financial reserves.

 

Programs and Services

 

Q: How long has 5th Block existed and how much does it cost?

A: Fifth block is a small group literacy intervention for struggling readers 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 first Pilot of the program took place in 1998-1999. The program was fully implemented in 2000-2001.

 

Q: Will the 5th Block Program be reviewed in order to expand programming to more schools, or incorporate techniques into regular classroom/curriculum?

A: The program is reviewed regularly to assess program reach and success. It is a short-term intervention program, and while some techniques can be duplicated in the regular classroom setting, 5th Block is designed to support the reintegration of students into the regular classroom upon completion of the program.  For the 2020-21 school year, the Success for Student Funding associated with the recently ratified Central Provincial Labour Agreements maintains the current staffing complement and service levels.


Q: Since the Province announced some additional money for special education, what impact will that have on staffing and other resources for students with special education needs?

A: Arising from the recent labour agreements, new support for student funding protects additional staffing to support students with special education needs previously funded by the Local Priorities Fund.

 

Q: Will there be any effort to re-store funding to the role of Chaplaincy in secondary schools?

A: Religion and Family Life, as well as Chaplaincy, are fundamental to the TCDSB as these provide the foundation for faith development. TCDSB remains committed to maintaining these vital programs for students so that they are able to achieve the Catholic Graduate Expectations, and no service level changes are anticipated to this essential Catholic program.

 

Q: Why is there a decrease in funding for Library Learning Commons and Teacher-Librarians?

A: The TCDSB is not considering any change to service levels for either Library Teachers or Technicians at the present time, and the online budget consultation survey only seeks opinions regarding the most important and least important programs and services from the perspective of student achievement and well-being.

 

Q: Will there be standardized expectations for student workload and interactive teaching time? How will individual circumstances be accommodated (parents not at home, access to technology, special needs)?

A: The Ministry of Education has updated the assessment principles for teachers of elementary and secondary students to reflect the current model of distance learning for students during school closures. Teachers have been provided with in-servicing and resources to support distance learning. Technology has been rolled out to families who are in need of devices and/or access to the internet to facilitate distance learning, and school principals remain the primary point of contact when there are concerns or questions.

 

Q: Will the Board be investing or reducing French Language/French Immersion programs, depending on its ability to staff programs?

A: 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.

 

Q: Why are students taught languages in schools in which the students do not represent these ethnic groups?

A: The International Languages Elementary (ILE) Program provides valuable opportunities to learn a third language and culture. Should a school community wish to revisit which languages are being taught, the parent community could be surveyed to determine the interests of families in accordance with Board Policy SP.05 (International Languages Program). 


Cost Saving Ideas

 

Q: What has the Board been doing to reduce energy costs? Is there more that could be done?

A: Yes, many energy reduction strategies are currently underway and/or completed most recently with the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding, and more work is planned in the future funded by School Renewal funds. The Board has a 5-year Energy Demand Management plan, which is intended to reduce the Board’s use of energy significantly over the next several years. Building retrofits such as more efficient heating/cooling systems and LED lighting will contribute to these targets.


Q: The Board made a commitment to going paperless. What is the impact thus far and what more could be done?

A: The regular Board and/or Committee meetings are conducted with the exception of workplace accommodations in a paperless manner with electronic agendas and reports eliminating the requirement for paper-based agendas and reports. The newly approved Information Technology Strategy also has a print strategy to move the Board to less printing across the system and to a more digital approach to both student learning and business functions. The estimated savings associated with the electronic production and distribution of Board agendas is $20,000 for the reduced cost of printing and paper usage.

 

Q: Now that the Board 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? Assuming that less office space would be required, this could translate into some savings on energy, etc.

A: 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.


Q: The survey questions seem to imply that the only adjustments being considered are school staffing. Are no program or service adjustments being considered in an effort to save money? School bus transportation and International Languages for example?

A: Certain topics such as student transportation and International Languages have  been discussed over the years. All programs and/or services are considered as part of the 2020-21 budget planning process and opportunities are provided to members of the TCDSB community to table any considerations. 

 

Q: Could the Board continue holding meetings in a virtual manner to cut down on travel and other expenses?

A: The Board is committed to providing opportunities for parents and stakeholders to physically attend meetings if they are able to do so. It is not the Board’s intention to replace these face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings. The cost savings from doing so would be minimal.

 

Q: 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?

A: TCDSB always welcomes ideas to generate revenue. There are no plans to significantly increase lease rates for childcare centres and other vital programs, or increase permit rates for the rental of school facilities. The Board of Trustees recently approved amendments to the Permit Policy and Rates in 2019, increases which served to effectively achieve cost recovery for permitted activities in TCDSB facilities.


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