Toronto School Board Doesn't Know How Many Staff It Employs

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TORONTO SCHOOL BOARD EMPLOYEES
The Toronto District School Board does not know how many full-time staff it employs, according to an independent report that found accountability and organization within the board is wanting. (Alamy) | Alamy

The Toronto District School Board does not know how many full-time staff it employs, according to an independent report that found accountability and organization within the board is wanting.

The report, authored by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP at the request of the school board, found the board could save between $49.7 million and $91.7 million a year if it undergoes an organizational revamp.

The consulting firm issued 23 recommendations for Canada's largest school board to streamline operations, increase accountability and spend more efficiently.

PricewaterhouseCoopers says in the report that "access to basic payroll data (i.e. no. of active payroll positions) to be very limited and difficult to obtain."

The report goes on to say it appears that the TDSB has more full-time staff on payroll than the board has approved.

Making changes to payroll operations alone could net between $8.25 million and $19.5 million in annual savings by 2015, the report estimates.

PricewaterhouseCoopers also believes that the TDSB’s projected $30-million deficit for the 2013-2014 school year "may potentially be twice the current staff forecast," meaning it could lie closer to $60 million.

The report also found that there isn't sufficient accountability to the director of education at the board. It found that high-profile redevelopment projects are over budget or delayed, and that staff control over projects is weak.

Moreover, staff don't have direct authority to approve or reject construction change order requests from contractors.

Elizabeth Moyer, the TDSB school trustee for Ward 18, says the report proves that savings can still be found.

"Sometimes things get done because they've always been done that way and so having an outsider come in and say: 'You can do this better or there’s a better process for this,' I think is helpful," Moyer told CBC News in an interview on Thursday.

'Evidence of maverick spend'

Procurement of common goods used by the TDSB is also not standardized, with $183 million in annual spending not done on contract.

"There is evidence of maverick spend or non-compliance with existing contracts as illustrated by notable variations in purchase price for commodities such as textbooks, hand sanitizer and stationary equipment," the report says.

There are an average of 700 suppliers per category, which suggests the TDSB "is not maximizing the full buying power of the board."

Implementing a comprehensive cost reduction program for procurement of common materials could save the board between $9.4 million and $17.7 million a year, the report says.

The report found that the board lost an average of 13 paid days per employee in the last fiscal year. The report found that:

- An average of 18 paid days a year were lost for each elementary teacher.

- An average of 15 paid days a year were lost for each caretaker.

- An average of 13 paid days a year were lost for each secondary teacher.

- An average of 11 paid days a year were lost for each maintenance worker.

The report recommends TDSB make internal changes and try to reduce paid days lost for all employees by one day for the 2013/2014 fiscal year. Making that change would amount to savings of between $6.6 million and $10.5 million a year, the report says.

Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten has offered to provide an external team of advisors to TDSB to rein in costs. The TDSB has yet to say if it will take up the province on its offer.

The report found that there were too many maintenance staff, that they operated inefficiently and by spending regular hours on work classified as emergency. It recommends reducing unionized custodial staff by 175 full-time employees and maintenance staff by 75 employees.

It also recommended outsourcing construction services, security services, grounds maintenance, vehicle maintenance and print shops.

The report is not considered a proper audit; rather, it is an analysis based on information provided to it by the board.

The TDSB website says the board has nearly 600 schools and serves more than 250,000 students.

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