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Budget constraints remain as OCDSB approves $1.3 billion budget for 2024-25

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Ottawa's largest school board says it will spend nearly $1.2 billion on operations next school year and more than $127 million to improve schools and build new ones.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board's 2024-25 budget was unanimously approved at a board of trustees meeting Monday evening.

The operating budget total comes to $1.169 billion. The budget includes an increase of 91.18 full-time equivalent staff from last school year.

The capital budget is $127.8 million, including $37.24 million in capital priorities, such as the building of new schools, $10.31 million in school renewal and $54.14 million in school condition improvement.

"Preparing a budget that balances ambitious strategies to promote learning, well-being and social responsibility with our fiscal reality is a complex endeavor. I appreciate the work that the Board of Trustees has undertaken this year to advocate for full and fair funding for public education; this work will continue," OCDSB chair Trustee Lynn Scott.

Trustees stressed during the meeting that budgetary constraints remain in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The board is currently under supervision by the Ministry of Education because of its financial situation.

School boards in Ontario are required to pass balanced budgets under the Education Act, which OCDSB staff say is increasing workloads.

"The province has not given us sufficient funds to address mental health and wellbeing capital projects. We don’t have the funding to adequately look at cyber threats, replacement workers, transportation," said trustee Justine Bell in an interview with CTV News after the meeting.

OCDSB budget committee chair Lyra Evans added the school board is not adequately funded to support kids with special education needs and growing student transportation needs.

"If we want to have the public education system we all deserve we need to make sure we are funding it properly," Evans said.

The budget earmarks $158.4 million to support students with special education needs, such as new communication disorder assistants, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and educational assistants.

The OCDSB is expected to have an enrolment of approximately 77,000 students for the 2024-2025 school year.

Associate director of business operations Randy Gerrior suggested it could take two to three budget cycles to get out of provincial supervision.

"I would like to encourage parents to advocate across the system whether it be to the Ministry directly or to MPP's, to please use your voice," he said.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Shaun Vardon Top Stories

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