Given the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s penchant for enriching its members with lavish expenditures, is it any wonder that they are taking out the fruits of their profligacy by cutting teachers, budgets, and support staff? As usual, the bolded sections are mine.
Catholic board cuts 85 teachers
Trustees eliminate $14 million deficit, cut school budgets 10%
June 3, 2008
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In a flurry of voting early this morning, Toronto Catholic trustees effectively balanced their budget, cutting almost $14 million and putting several areas under review to make up the difference.
"We are committed to a balanced budget," board chair Catherine LeBlanc-Miller said, adding that if there's any deficit left over after the review, "it will come out of trustee services, trustee expenses."
Among the cuts approved: laying off 85 teachers ($4 million), not hiring secondary teachers to fill job openings ($1 million), 10 per cent reduction to school budgets ($1.2 million), laying off 32 support staff such as caretakers and secretaries ($782,000), and cutting contract child and youth workers ($500,000).
Trustees rejected a move to axe full-day kindergarten, an issue they had previously voted against even though staff had suggested it could save almost $1 million.
Staff had been asked to provide details of savings. They said that eliminating the teacher positions and support staff effective Jan. 1, "will cause upheaval for a large number of students" but save about $5 million.
The Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers union has said it's not fair for the board to balance the budget on the backs of its members, and said the cuts are beyond what's necessary to address declining enrolment, which this year is about 900 students across the board.
The union also said trustees should look to cutting administration and governance, areas where the board has overspent $6 million in the past four years.
Trustees had nixed the idea of layoffs but reconsidered after Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said she was concerned about the board's financial position in light of its $14 million deficit and the trustee spending scandal.
Wynne last week sent in investigator Pierre Filiatrault to review the board's finances and recommend whether she should send in a supervisor.
The trustees met last night, their first of two meetings this week after three last week, to whittle down the deficit.
Trustees are also in hot water with the province following a blistering May 7 report by a provincial investigator, who found they cost taxpayers more than $100,000 a year, about the highest in Ontario.
Norbert Hartmann uncovered all kinds of spending abuses, including frequent meals and meals with alcohol charged to the public purse, and thousands spent on promotional materials. Trustees also kept board-bought equipment such as cellphones after their term was over, and one was charging rent for a home office.
Trustee Mary Cicogna had billed the board almost $700 for a trip to Florida, which she said was to check out Ave Maria University, a Catholic institution she said is trying to make inroads in attracting Canadian students.
However, in a letter distributed to trustees and the public last night, she said she wanted to withdraw her expense, "not because it is an inappropriate expenditure ... but I feel that it is necessary to do this in order to begin the process of restoring public confidence."
At the meeting last week, trustees also decided to end their medical/dental and life insurance benefits – which aren't allowed under the Education Act – as of July 1 and end their car allowance, which again is not permitted.
Last night, ratepayer Michael Baillargeon said that trustees should cut their honorarium, limit expenses to $250 per month and use secretarial services supplied by the board.
He also said trustee Oliver Carroll, who expensed $7,577 for a master's degree in educational administration, should repay the money. "Get in line for a student loan like our children did and like today's students must," he said.
Baillargeon also urged the trustees who employed each other's relatives, at a cost of $4,000 each – trustees John Del Grande and Ann Andrachuk – to repay that money.