Jeremy Hobbs, business services superintendent for the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), presented trustees during a teleconference session with a preliminary analysis of the district budget situation for the 2020-2021 school year. Hobbs noted that the current pandemic situation is creating an unexpected challenge in drafting the budget.
“Considerable uncertainty exists regarding the impact of COVID-19 on issues, ranging from enrolments to funding,” Hobbs stated in his analysis.
The UCDSB could have a $717,537 surplus from its 2019-2020 budget. District staff were still tallying up actual expenses for the past school year, allowing for reduced spending due to school closures resulting from both the pandemic and the rotating strikes by teacher unions during their contracts dispute with the provincial government.
Whether the UCDSB has either a deficit or surplus budget for the 2020-2021 term depends on several factors. The main concern is enrolment, which affects the amount of guaranteed provincial funding the district receives each year.
Hobbs’ report noted that the UCDSB could see a slight decline in its total student population next term. Projections suggest a possible 0.4 per cent drop in student numbers for 2020-2021 compared to the current school year.
Other factors may affect next school year’s budget. They range from changes to other provincial revenue sources to the need to increase the UCDSB’s contribution to its OMERS (non-teacher pension plan) program because of upsets to the 2020 economy thanks to the pandemic and other causes.
The report concluded that the UCDSB may have either a deficit or a surplus budget for 2020-2021. The potential deficit could be as much as $1.1 million, while the possible surplus could be more than $2.8 million.
If the UCDSB faces a deficit budget situation then trustees and administration have to decide on spending cuts as provincial legislation does not allow school districts to run deficit budgets. If a surplus budget results, then trustees will consider options for the extra money, which could mean using some for existing or new programs or projects, or putting some or all of the surplus into a reserve fund.
The Education Ministry provides its funding support figures for school districts, based on student enrolment projections before the start of the next term. UCDSB trustees expect to have the final revised budget approved over the summer.