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Thames Valley school board preliminary budget predicts $5.5M deficit

The TVDSB preliminary budget predicts a potential $5.5 million deficit for the 2022-23 school season. . Amy Simon / Global News London

Thames Valley District School Board’s preliminary budget predicts a potential $5.5-million deficit for the 2022-23 school season.

The potential deficit is due to multiple ongoing COVID-related costs and rising student enrollment numbers.

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The projection for the public-school board was released on Monday ahead of the board’s Planning and Priorities Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday evening.

The $5.5-million preliminary deficit and a projected deficit for compliance purposes of $4 million are within ministry requirements, according to the report.

However, in relieving some budget pressure, “a one‐year COVID‐19 related Learning Recovery grant was announced to provide additional staffing support and has been included in the preliminary budget in the amount of $11.2 million,” the report said.

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The grant will fund various school board positions including 61 full-time secondary teachers, 21 literacy support teachers, over 28 elementary school supervisors and more.

“Funding these additional teachers supports the ability of the board to provide quality programming in all schools,” the report said.

There is also a $3.5-million priorities and partnerships fund for tutoring supports to help address the academic impacts of the COVID‐19 pandemic.

Also listed in the preliminary budget is a projected 3,000-rise in student enrollment, said to push total enrollment next year to over 82,200.

“As a result of this significant increase in enrolment, there are staffing increases year over year,” the report highlighted.

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Staffing absences were a large hurdle for TVDSB over the past year as COVID-19 numbers continued to rise in schools while students were back in classrooms.

Some $22.4 million is set aside in the preliminary budget to cover those absences, the same amount reported in the previous year.

However, projections indicate that the amount could increase.

“This is considered a risk given the continuation of the sick and short‐term leave program and the potential increase in the number and cost of replacement staff required,” the report said. “Management of absenteeism continues to be a challenge for Ontario school boards.”

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The report also states the need to address rising special education costs as expenses increased $2.5 million throughout 2021-22. This included an additional $1 million in technology-related costs.

A 5.4 per cent increase in utilities was also noted in the report, with an additional 3.15 per cent cost update to run ventilation systems longer and replace filters more frequently in following the COVID-19 related requirement.

TVDSB committee will be presented with the budget Tuesday evening where final approval will be announced at the June 11 meeting before being submitted to the province.

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