Wednesday, June 14, 2023
At its meeting last night, trustees of Near North District School Board (NNDSB) approved the 2023-2024 budget, as recommended by the finance committee.
Finance Committee Chair Shane Hall provided a report and presentation of the compliant budget, which has a deficit for compliance purposes of ($914,337) and revenue and expenses for compliance purposes of $170.5 million and $171.4 million respectively.
Hall thanked staff for their efforts in preparing a compliant 2023-24 budget that has a continued commitment to improving student achievement and well-being, while working within some challenging funding constraints.
There are a number of cost pressures in this year’s budget, including a new transportation funding formula, changes to the Indigenous Education allocation, and the expiry of the COVID-19 recovery fund. Staff recommended a budget deficit, as there is reduced flexibility within the grant allocations to cover the transportation deficit, while still maintaining sufficient staffing levels to support student achievement and well-being. Last year, the transportation deficit was $1.3 million; this year it has increased to $1.65 million.
Superintendent of Business (SBO) Seija Van Haesendonck confirmed that the transportation deficit has a significant impact on the board’s financial position, but noted the diligent work of Nipissing Parry Sound Student Transportation Services (NPSSTS) staff and member boards to understand and implement the new funding formula, and determine where services can be reviewed and costs adjusted to more closely reflect the funding benchmarks determined by the Ministry of Education
Other significant costs to NNDSB are supply costs to cover absences, and the costs of maintaining facilities, due to rising utility and supply prices. SBO Van Haesendonck noted the challenge of budgeting for costs driven by weather, such as utilities and snow plowing, as a colder than normal winter or a heavier snow load can result in higher costs than anticipated.
The Ministry of Education has directed boards to budget a provision for labour increases, as bargaining for multiple unions continues at the provincial level, with salaries and benefits included in the central agreements. NNDSB has doubled the provision for contingencies to $1.9 million, in preparation for increased salary costs when those agreements are finalized.
According to the Ministry of Education, the board is permitted to budget an in-year deficit of up to one per cent of the school board’s operating revenue but must submit an in-year deficit elimination plan, approved by the Board of Trustees, identifying the measures it will take to balance its budget and eliminate the deficit. Finance Committee Chair Hall noted that the plan approved by the trustees eliminates the deficit by 2025-2026 through the reduction of school operation expenses, improved absence management processes, reduced staffing costs through attrition, and further efficiencies found by NPSSTS through consolidated transportation routes.
The Board heard that enrolment is expected to increase by 2.5 per cent and it is projected that there will be 187 more elementary students, and 60.5 more secondary students enrolled in NNDSB than this year.
Board Chair Erika Lougheed remarked, “I know that NNDSB will continue to make strides in the area of student achievement and well-being, despite the budget deficit.”