TORONTO - Teachers in Toronto's Catholic school board say paying for parking in school property should not be considered as a way to address a budget shortfall.The Toronto Catholic District School board says it has to find $4.6 million to finish closing a $34.3-million deficit in its 2015-16 budget.Spokesman John Yan says two trustees have asked staff to look into the idea of charging teachers and school staff to pay for use of the board's 7,000 parking spots across the city.He says the board is looking at the feasibility of the proposal and will present a report on it next month.The idea isn't sitting well with a group representing many of the city's Catholic school teachers.Mario Bernardo, president of the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers union, says rank-and-file staff shouldn't be asked to bear the consequences of a budget shortfall they didn't create."It just seems like there are a lot more creative or a lot more interesting ways you can probably find revenue," Bernardo said. "Certainly in this environment I know that...teachers are really quite displeased at the symbolism of all this."Yan stressed the proposal is only at the exploratory stage, adding the board was also asked to examine the feasibility of raising fees charged to community groups who use school facilities."As it stands now it's just a report that's being written up in terms of what could possibly be options," Yan said in a telephone interview.He said teachers, parents and community members would all be given a chance to voice potential concerns at future board meetings if the proposals get off the ground.Bernardo gave voice to his concerns much sooner, saying that parking fees could place additional strain on teachers whose net income can be as low as $35,000 a year.The financial demand would come on top of a three-year salary freeze and a workload that increased when the board cut dozens of jobs in a bid to save money, Bernardo said.
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