Recommendation made to school board to use reserves to cover funding deficit

SUDBURY—With the previously announced decrease in funding from the province over three years, the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) is having to make some tough decisions concerning its operating budget. While the board is looking at a deficit for 2016-2017 (which, if board trustees approve, will be made up from its reserve funds), at this point at least there will be no staff layoffs.

“As we have previously discussed, the ministry of education had announced a three-year reduction in funding grants for operations, human resources and programming,” said Norm Blaseg, director of education for the RDSB, last week. He pointed out that for the RDSB, this means $1.3 million less in funding in year one, $2.6 million in year two, and a total of $3.9 million in the third year. “This doesn’t account for any decline in student enrolment; and all boards in the North are facing declining enrolment.”

“We know going into the 2016-2017 school year there is a shortfall in funding from the ministry of $2.6 million,” continued Mr. Blaseg. “Knowing that and student numbers having declined, in the budget submission made to the board on May 25, it was recommended the board pass a budget with a deficit just under $2.4 million, with the idea of going to the board reserves to recover this deficit of just under $2.4 million.”

Mr. Blaseg explained the board will consider the recommendation at its July meeting. To date there have been no staffing cuts or cuts in operation or school closures. “Obviously there is still a significant financial pressure that we have to deal with. And part of our capital plan was reaching out to communities about whether they would have any interest in use of surplus spaces in our schools in the communities.”

“In August we will be putting forward an accommodation plan to recommend for a balanced budget,” said Mr. Blaseg. “We will make recommendations to reduce operating expenses and discussions will include a review of operations, and our programs and services.”

“The good news is that we are not looking at staff layoffs,” said Mr. Blaseg. “And while the board has a reserve of about $5 million that it can choose to tap into, we also know we can’t carry this on too long, in using reserves to have a balanced budget. So we have to make some tough decisions and be creative in looking at ways to generate revenues. And we will be discussing with communities possible use of space in the schools in their community. It has to be a good fit for the board and the community in sharing the school facilities.”