Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Spending up in draft 2024-25 Upper Canada District School Board budget

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Upper Canada District School Board trustees will be presented with a relatively balanced budget for the next school year at their June 5 meeting 

The draft budget sees a 15.6 per cent increase in spending, largely due to wage increases, transportation costs and an increase in special education spending. 

The board, which projects a 1.1 per cent enrolment increase in the 2024-25 school year, saw an increase in funding from the province – including increased funding due to wage increases resulting from the repeal of Bill 124. UCDSB officials project an enrolment of 28,238 students in the new school year, 68 per cent of whom are in elementary school. 

Transportation, which was a contentious issue before the start of the current school year, will increase by nearly four per cent to $38.8 million in 2024-25. Funding from the province is set to curtail drastically in 2028, with no plans released yet by the province on new funding initiatives. 

Overall funding for the school board by the province increased 7.1 per cent for the upcoming school year. 

The $447 million proposed budget includes $52.1 million in capital construction, $49 million of which is for improvements to existing schools. A list of proposed projects for the 2024-25 school year was not included in the budget documents. However, monthly facility reports point to HVAC, Solar Panel, and PA System improvements at Seaway District High School in Iroquois, and HVAC and Solar Panel improvements at Centennial 67 Public School in Spencerville on track for completion in the 2024-25 school year as part of that planned spending. 

Only $1.4 million of capital spending is targeted towards the completion of the new Swift Waters Elementary School in Brockville, which is slated to open its doors in September 2024, and the long planned consolidated secondary school in Cornwall. That project has yet to find land to build the new school to combine St. Lawrence Secondary School and Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School under one roof. The board is investigating a potential fourth site for the school, six years after the project was initially announced. 

Other capital increases proposed include 45.6 per cent (up to $16.8 million) for textbooks and classroom supplies, and 17.7 per cent (up to $4.1 million) for classroom computers. 

Current contract arbitration with multiple union bargaining units have not concluded yet. The impact on any potential settlement has not been factored into this draft budget. 

On the labour side, the highest increases proposed for the board include 25 per cent (up to $7.5 million) for consultants and coordinators, 12.5 per cent (up to $10.7 million) for administration and governance staff, and 10.8 per cent (up to $11.6 million) for substitute teachers/supply staff. 

If passed by the trustees, the board will settle on an overall surplus in this budget of about $400,000. The UCDSB has an accumulated surplus of $29.9 million, however just over one-third of that is appropriated internally already. School boards in Ontario  are not allowed to run deficits. The board’s fiscal year-end is August 31, 2024. 

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