BROCKVILLE, Ontario – John McAllister, chair of the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) sent out an open letter to Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark criticizing the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing after the later chimed in on the recently passed UCDSB budget.
The UCDSB faced a $11.7 million deficit going into the budget process, this lead to cuts by the board, including issuing redundancy notices to more than 100 teachers, and laying off 25 para-professionals.
Clark, who represents Leeds-Grenville, the riding in which the UCDSB has its headquarters, said that the school board should take advantage of the Ontario government’s offer to have a third party auditor go through their budget line by line to find efficiencies.
“We find this recommendation to be strange, as the Board’s books are open, and we already have in place an extensive audit by external auditors annually,” McAllister stated in his letter. “As you can imagine, we will be highlighting our recent fiscal challenges and the actions around the 2019/2020 budget when we engage our external auditors in the future.”
McAllister explained in an interview with Seaway News that the UCDSB had two main pressure points on its budget an the first he said, was transportation.
He pointed to a 2018 arbitrated settlement with the Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) consortium that saw a drastic increase in student busing costs. He said that this settlement alone resulted in a $5 million annual hit to the Board.
“There is a difference between what we are funded by the province and what we had to pay,” he said.
McAllister said that the second pressure point on the Board was Special Education, an area where he admitted the UCDSB had overspent by $8 million.
“We have taken measures in the coming year to adjust our delivery of resources in Special Education,” he said.
McAllister said that this restructuring could result in larger classes, but said that students will be better served by the new system.
In his letter to MPP Clark, McAllister states that he reached out to Clark in June to discuss the fiscal difficulties the Board was facing, but did not receive a response at the time. He said that he would be continuing to try and engage Clark in a dialogue.