The Ontario government is putting the Toronto District School Board on notice that if the board doesn’t demonstrate it is serious about getting its financial and operational difficulties in order, it will be subject to a provincial takeover.
An independent report by PwC released Thursday found evidence of poor fiscal management, a lack of accountability and a culture of spending. It noted that staff lacked the expertise to implement the changes necessary to tackle its capital deficit.
The beleaguered board has been mulling over an offer from the province to send in a team of experts to advise them on fiscal management for more than a week. Trustees have indicated a willingness to co-operate but only with a number of caveats about the powers of the team, and only after trustees have had time to discuss the matter at a board meeting Wednesday.
In a letter sent to the board Friday, Minister of Education Laurel Broten, who had initially attached a Monday deadline to the offer, agreed to wait until Wednesday. She was clear, however, that declining to accept help on the province’s terms could lead to a takeover.
“If the board does not accept the Special Assistance Team... we will begin to take the necessary steps to appoint an investigator to assess whether the board has the capacity to make the necessary corrective actions on its own to get its financial affairs back on track or if other measures are required,” Ms. Broten wrote in the letter.The 72-page PwC report found that the board must make permanent cuts to its spending by reducing hundreds of staff, improving their accountability, closing schools, and ending a “culture of providing everything to everyone” so that it can get expenditures under control.
The report was requested by the TDSB and commissioned by the Ontario government after it was revealed that the board overpaid for routine maintenance and construction work in the face of an estimated $30-million capital deficit. Auditors from PwC concluded that the board’s deficit is in fact much larger, closer to $62-million.