Trustees of the Peel District School Board approved a balanced, operating budget of $1.77 billion and a capital budget of $72.9 million for the 2016-17 school year, subject to Ministry of Education approval.
"Again this year, we have had a smooth and tremendously collaborative budget process—this is a great point of pride and one we all share," noted Chair of the Board Janet McDougald during her remarks at the Regular Meeting of the Board on June 7, 2016. "I'm very pleased that we have remained, throughout the years, a board that is steadfast in its student-focus, setting budget priorities that put students first, always."
In addition to working with Peel staff to develop the budget, the board sought input from staff, parents, School Council members, students and community members. To gather input, the board used an online survey and received close to 300 responses. "What we heard from our community were repeated calls for increased funding for special education, technology, classroom resources, extracurriculars, facilities upgrades and transportation. Most of the $1.77 billion budget is allocated to operational costs—salaries and benefits, busing, classroom resources and technology, maintenance, utilities and other day-to-day costs. What is left, after those funds are allocated, is approximately $4.3 million," clarified McDougald.
Guided by the consultation process, the $4.3 million and $2.4 million from board reserves will be used to support the following significant enhancements for Peel students:
- As a direct result of the board's Fix the Formula campaign's success, the board will receive the third of a four-year phase-in of Special Education High Needs Amount funding now called Differentiated Special Education Needs Amount, close to an additional $3.4 million in 2016-17, that more accurately reflects students' needs. This will bring Special Education funding closer to actual spending, but the board will still spend more than its allocated funding to support students because the special education needs of Peel students continue to grow.
- For the third consecutive year, the board will be significantly increasing the number of teaching assistants in Peel schools. Next year, the board will add 21 new teaching assistants to support students' complex physical, development, emotional and behavioural needs. The board will also convert 50 long-term occasional Teaching Assistant (TA) positions to permanent and add 10 new LTO TAs to support fall transitions. One additional psychologist, social worker and speech language pathologist will also be added, as well as two itinerant teachers to support students in Autism Spectrum Disorder or Developmental Disabilities programs who are integrated into classrooms.
- Based on feedback from parents and community members, the board will reduce the transportation distance eligibility for students in grades 7 and 8 from 3.2 kilometres to 2 kilometres effective the 2016-17 school year—$950,000 will be dedicated to support this reduction. Enhancements in the provision of transportation continue to be a goal of trustees.
- Renewing the board's commitment to extracurriculars, $800,000 has been dedicated to support extracurricular activities in schools, such as athletics, the arts and other clubs.
- Steadfast in the board's commitment to equity, we will add a new coordinating principal of First Nations, Métis and Inuit focused on equity. Noted McDougald, "It continues to be important that students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected."
- Additional funding will be used towards staffing. The board will add seven English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers and two additional ESL resource teachers, a new assistant manager of health and safety, and an additional PC LAN specialist. Funding will also be provided to continue to support the continuous recruitment and hiring of occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators and TAs to ensure coverage during staff absences.
- To streamline processes and better monitor the status of work orders, custodial and maintenance staff will be provided with access to digital tablets.
In addition, the board will approve $5 million out of reserves and $10 million out of renewal funds to be used towards the creation of a $50 million Facilities Improvement to Support Program Needs initiative. Improvements will be made to areas such as science labs, technology shops, digital spaces and libraries. Fifty thousand dollars has also been allocated to provide additional resources to new kindergarten classrooms.
"We came to the table, focused on the projects in our Report Card for Student Success, bringing the voices of our community with us while guided by our mission statement—to inspire success, confidence and hope in each student," notes McDougald. "And make no mistake—each decision we make, each item added to the budget, each taken away, all reflect that mission and what is best for students. These are not just words—they're how we do our work together."
Thanking staff and volunteers, McDougald concluded by saying, "I know that we're not in this alone as trustees. I know that our decisions would be left on the Board Room floor if not for the outstanding contributions of Peel staff and volunteers. Every staff member, no matter what department, is working to support schools and—support our mission, to inspire students to be confident, successful and hopeful."
Media contact: Janet McDougald, Chair, Peel District School Board, firstname.lastname@example.org, 905-278-1402
Reference: Carla Pereira, Manager of Communications, Peel District School Board, email@example.com, 905-890-1010 ext. 2814
Note to media: Download the full text of Chair McDougald's budget remarks.