Ottawa's public school board facing $14 million deficit for 2021-22 school year

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The continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a $14.3 million hole in the Ottawa public school board's budget for next year.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board tabled its $1 billion 2021-2022 draft budget Tuesday evening, projecting the $14 million deficit.

A report shows the deficit is due to a decline in enrolment, lower participation in the board's before and after school programs and COVID-19 related costs.

The board estimates 1,376 fewer students will enroll in Ottawa public elementary school schools for the 2021-22 school year. This year, enrolment is expected to be 1,951 fewer students than expected, due to the pandemic's effect on kindergarten enrolment and reduced immigration levels.

OCDSB Trustees have already approved changes to academic staffing due to lower enrolment, including a reduction in 93 full-time equivalent elementary staff and 50 FTE secondary staff for 2021-22.

Staff say the 2021-2022 budget reflects positive changes in the level of services for students, while also addressing a number of one-time pressures due to COVID-19.

"The staff recommended budget is mainly focused on maintaining services for students while continuing to manage the additional costs of measures designed to maintain safe and healthy schools and working environments as the effects of the pandemic continue," said the report for the board.

"However, the budget also continues to include funds to support the work required for progress towards the achievement of the goals of the strategic plan."

The budget priorities include:

  • Support mental health of student and staff
  • Investments in technological devices
  • Investments to support equity and inclusion objectives
  • Viability of the Extended Day program in light of the temporary reduction in rates of participation during the pandemic

The board is seeking approval from the Ministry of Education to use $14.3 million from the $21.1 million accumulated surplus to cover the 2021-2022 budget shortfall.

The board used reserves to cover a $17 million budget deficit for the 2020-21 school year.