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Toronto District School Board

Proposed Options to Balance the 2024-25 TDSB Budget

Categories: Advocacy

April 17, 2024  

Dear Minister Lecce, 

I am writing on behalf of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to draw your attention to the budgetary challenges we continue to face as a Board and to ask that the Ministry of Education address these very real funding concerns in the upcoming Grants for Student Needs (GSN). 

As you know, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is Canada’s largest and most diverse school board, with approximately 238,000 students at 582 schools. We also serve more than 100,000 learners in Adult and Continuing Education programs. 

The vast scale and scope of the TDSB creates a variety of pressures when required to meet the one-size-fits-all funding scenarios of the Provincial Grants for Student Needs. A board of our size, located in Toronto, creates unique needs when it comes to what is required to best support students and communities. We need safe and modern learning environments, appropriate special education supports, resources to support mental health, well-being and safety, and access to reliable and up-to-date technology. To help address gaps in student achievement, mental health and well-being needs, it is critical that the TDSB receives adequate funding support. 

In the TDSB’s Submission to the 2024-25 Education Funding Consultation, we responded to the Ministry’s specific questions and outlined TDSB’s funding needs in priority areas where the Board feels additional support would improve the academic achievement and well-being of students.  

Over the past few years, our board has implemented operational cuts to programs and services to reduce our deficit. However, these adjustments have not been sufficient to eliminate our deficit in its entirety. Despite implementing operational efficiencies, we continue to grapple with a significant structural deficit – let me expand. 

Our Structural Deficit: 

Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI): There are historic and current unfunded increases in statutory benefits to our employees that are completely outside of our jurisdiction and control. The statutory benefits (CPP and EI) rates have increased over the last six years without a corresponding increase in funding. CPP has been gradually increasing from 4.95% in 2019 to 5.95% in 2023. In 2024, a second additional contribution rate was added. Similarly, EI has also been increasing over this time. Taken together, the total underfunding for these two statutory benefits in 2024-2025 will be $35.2 million. 

This funding shortfall amounts to more than our deficit.  

Salary Gapping: there remains a significant gap in funding for teacher salaries. As you know, in 2014 the province began Central Bargaining with our teacher unions and came up with a central teacher grid to fund salaries. Funding the province provides us in grants to pay for teachers is based on this grid. At the time this was negotiated by the Province, the TDSB grid was higher than the central grid (our teachers were being paid more). The difference between what our teachers make and what the province funds continues to increase annually as the centrally bargained percentage raises are applied. However, the gap in salaries is left to the TDSB to provide, and continues to grow, despite our inability to raise revenue (unlike a municipality, for example, who can raise taxes). In 2023-2024, the unfunded amount is $22.3 million.  

This funding shortfall is just slightly less than our deficit. 

Moratorium: The provincial moratorium on school closures, in place since 2017, takes away our ability to consolidate underutilized schools to reduce operating costs. The Ministry eliminated the “top up” grant that recognized the costs that are incurred by operating underutilized schools and yet prevents Boards from being able to fix this issue and provide students with the breadth of programming they deserve. The “top-up” grant for the TDSB was approximately $35 million in 2014-15. 

If this grant were reinstated, we would not have a deficit. If the moratorium were lifted, or we were allowed exemptions on a case-by-case basis, as mentioned in our letter dated April 15, 2024, we would be in a different financial position.  

COVID-19 Expenditures: Finally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we incurred substantial expenses to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Your own government and Toronto Public Health provided safety directions that were critical to maintaining the confidence of everyone we served during the health emergency. In following these directions, the TDSB incurred approximately $70.1 million in pandemic-related costs not covered by the Ministry of Education.  

If the TDSB had been reimbursed for these emergency costs, we would at least have reserves to support the deficit. 

While it is true that the Ministry has provided the Board with $130 million in additional funding since 2019, most of this funding accounts for salary increases. The increase in per pupil funding is indeed 8.5%, which sounds impressive, but once we account for inflation, which over the same period was 13.8%, this number looks less rosy, and really points to a reduction in per-pupil funding. And while we have had the occasional adjustment to benchmarks, they have not been adjusted to reflect the true cost of doing business in Toronto.  

I would also point out that since 2019, the Board has repeatedly been forced to make significant cuts in our yearly budgets to balance. Since 2019, we have approved $64.7 million in reductions. This does not include the reductions we have committed to in the 2024–2025 budget – and in fact, despite putting forward $17 million in reductions, we stand at this moment with a projected $26.5 million deficit for 2024–25.  

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario provides independent financial and economic analysis to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. In their report published in December 2023, Ontario School Boards: Enrolment, Finances and Student Outcomes, it clearly states “In the six years from 2015-16 to 2021-22, total school board per-student spending grew at an average annual rate of 2.3 per cent, compared to an average annual inflation rate of 2.5 per cent over this period. The TDSB was not included in either the top 10 with the highest or the bottom 10 with the lowest per-student funding. 

Recognizing our responsibility to always look for efficiencies, at a Special Meeting on April 4, the Board approved a reduction of $17 million to the operating budget for 2024-25 and will consider additional options to balance in the weeks ahead. The $17 million breaks down as follows: Central Staff ($5 million), School Renewal ($5 million), and Supporting Staff Self-Wellness -- initiatives in support of staff attendance ($7 million). Trustees also asked for options regarding charging possible user fees to support the One-to-One Device Strategy to further offset our deficit. 

Following this round of reductions, the TDSB currently faces a projected budget deficit of $26.5 million and limited areas for further reductions. It is clear after several opportunities for public feedback that should we accept the additional options to balance brought forward by staff (currently delayed), it would have a detrimental impact on many in our communities, including seniors, newcomers, and families who have young children attending our International Language programs. 

As illustrated above, the TDSB has -- for many years now -- made a good faith effort to find efficiencies and make reductions. With this in mind, we urgently request that the Ministry finally address the Board’s structural deficit. Once the 2024-25 education funding is known, we will consider additional options to balance in the weeks ahead, including the need to request permission to use Proceeds of Disposition. 
Just as municipalities such as the City of Toronto and Ottawa have received new funding arrangements, as the largest school board in the country, the TDSB also requires a New Deal that acknowledges the unique challenges of the largest school board in Canada. Ministry benchmarks within all grants must be adjusted to include true operating costs in the City of Toronto and the unique populations we serve. We cannot continue to operate under outdated funding models that fail to address our students’ current and future needs adequately. A thriving Ontario includes a thriving Toronto, and contributing to a Toronto that will still be the economic engine of the province in ten- or twenty-years' time is directly related to what we put into education today.  

Minister, I know you want our students to succeed. So do we. As always, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the challenges faced by the TDSB in further detail so that together we can find solutions that work for Toronto students.  



Rachel Chernos Lin 
Chair, Toronto District School Board 

Toronto MPPs 
TDSB Parents/Guardians/Caregivers 
Federation and Union Partners