Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Deep into reserves...

The budget stories are also coming fast and furious this week ahead of the June 30 Ontario Ministry of Education deadline for school boards to file. St. Catharines reported Tuesday night on the District School Board of Niagara's over $4-million dip into reserves. Ouch.
That is, to date, the largest amount I have seen a board take from its reserves to balance a 2009-10 budget. About $1.4 million of that came from a special education reserve fund, which is interesting considering the province encouraged boards several years ago through clawbacks to eliminate that specific reserve fund.
“We can go one more year doing what we’re doing tonight and then we’re done,” finance committee chairman Dalton Clark said.
“We need to make an impression on our local MPPs and have them fight for us.”
Board trustees passed a budget of slightly more than $372.79 million.
Clark said the board spends $4.2 million more in special education than it receives from the province. Niagara’s board is the second lowest funded in Ontario when it comes to receiving special education funding, he told board members.
If the board received the provincial average for special education, he said it would get an additional $5.8 million.
Clark said that would allow Niagara District School Board to not only balance the special education budget and balance its regular budget, but have money left over to do more in classrooms.
This is a bit of a misnomer, if you pay attention to what some trustees across the province are talking about. They've been complaining, ever louder this year, that special education "deficits" are somewhat of an accounting shell game -- that revenues for staffing used mostly by special education students and programs are not being credited in special education budget lines while expenses relating to staff time are being allocated to special education. The accounting always leaves special education in deficit.
A topic for a longer post at a later date, perhaps during the upcoming dog days of summer.
All the same, I can't imagine what petitioning MPPs would do-- particularly with leading PC candidate Tim Hudak coming from Niagara Region and having support for special education listed nowhere in his platform.