UCDSB could cut teachers, librarians to fill 'huge' budget gap

Teachers, librarians and administrative staff are all on the chopping block as the Upper Canada District School Board tries to find a way to slash $11.7 million from its budget.

The school board, which covers a vast portion of eastern Ontario surrounding Ottawa, says it overspent on special education and office administration to the tune of roughly $9.8 million last year.

That, combined with provincial funding cuts, means the board will have to make some "tough decisions" if it hopes to balance the budget, said chair John McAllister.

"It's huge," McAllister said. "But we are trying to minimize the impact to student learning."

Redundancies in May

Every facet of the board is being scrutinized for potential savings in an attempt to make up the shortfall, he said.

The board already handed out 100 redundancy notices to teachers in May, although some of those job losses will likely be absorbed by retirements and voluntary departures.

Now the trustees are eyeing other staff positions to make up the deficit.

"Programs, employees, central office staff, student support teachers, just about everything, really," McAllister said.

Overspending on special education

The school board has been in financial peril since last year when arbitration with a group of bus companies suddenly increased its annual transportation costs by about $10 million. The province has since stepped in to help the school board cover those costs for 2019, McAllister said.

Declining enrolment also led to the closure of 12 schools in the district in 2017.

But the budget pressures this year is mainly driven by overspending on special education, the board said. It's embarking on an effort to limit its spending on special education programs, but any savings won't come close to filling the financial gap.

Parents have been mainly sympathetic to the board's plight, McAllister said.  

The board will debate its options at a meeting Wednesday evening. A final vote will take place June 19.