SUDBURY—The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) approved a balanced budget of $181 million for the 2014-2015 school year at a board meeting held Monday, June 30. Despite declining enrolment, the board’s overall budget reflects an increase. This is primarily due to Early Learning Kindergarten, which will be fully implemented and funded in September 2014. Provincial funding to RDSB has increased by $5.5 million. The budget passed despite two trustees (including a local trustee) voting against the budget specifically due to the board hiring two new social workers in the school system.
“I was one of two board members who voted against the budget,” said Larry Killens. “I agree it was very comforting to know the budget is balanced. The reason I voted against it is because of the huge expenditure in excess of $400,000, hiring two more social workers. This is not to say if I had my way we would have one in every school.”
“Our business plan says the CAS is swamped,” said Mr. Killens. “My concern is we as a board are paying close to half a million dollars and if we already have two social workers on hand that means as a board we are paying almost $1 million for work of social service agencies.”
“I would assume the funds are coming out of surplus. Having said that, these funds will not be used in the classroom or other board needs, i.e. board transportation.”
“Our mandate as a school board is education, not social services, as much as it is needed,” said Mr. Killens. “If social services require more assistance, money and training, they should be advocating for more resources, money, to address this need.”
“Ongoing savings, coupled with the declining enrolment grant, have enabled us to align expenditures with revenue and achieve a balanced budget once again this year,” said RDSB chair Doreen Dewar in a release. “We have also invested in initiatives that will have a positive impact on learners from Junior Kindergarten to adult education.”
Projected enrolment (in RDSB) for September is expected to total 13,443 students, an overall reduction of 285 (full-time equivalent). This includes 75 fewer students in the elementary panel and 227 fewer students in the secondary panel. The board is also predicting increased enrolment in a revamped Adult Day School program being launched this fall.
A total of 78 percent of the budget, or $141 million, has been allocated to salaries and benefits. The total staffing complement for 2014-2015 will be a full-time equivalent of 1,581 employees.
The budget reflects an increase of 15 designated early childhood educators for the Early Learning Kindergarten Program, which is being expanded to 12 more schools. It also reflects an increase of 10 elementary teachers, including 2.5 student success teachers to support Grade 7 and 8 students in designated schools, the release notes.
The RDSB release also states that two more social workers are being hired as part of the board’s mental health strategy. The budget also includes the equivalent of 13 educational assistants to support students with special needs.
Funds have been allocated to provide more artistic performances in elementary and secondary schools as well as enhance professional learning opportunities for teachers in program areas, including French as a second language, the release continues.
Significant savings in utilities are once again reflected in the budget. Capital projects (including energy retrofits, the renewal of schools, the construction of three new green schools, and the revitalization of Sudbury Secondary School) coupled with declining enrolment have resulted in a decrease in electricity, gas and water consumption.
“The Ministry of Education has provided additional funding to assist with rising electricity costs in schools,” the release states. “The school renewal capital program has also been extended for another three years.”