The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is facing a projected debt of $62 million in 2013-14 and should sell off 10-15 under-utilized schools and cut or outsource more than 700 jobs to help climb out of the red, a sweeping report on the board’s finances reveals.

The study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) was requested by the TDSB and commissioned by the Ministry of Education. It notes that the board is experiencing declining enrollment over the past decade and should shutter its lowest utilized schools to save between $4.5 – $11.5 million.

(Read the full report here)

Outsourcing 738 jobs, mostly in maintenance, custodial and construction, could save up to another $25 million.

“Unionized maintenance is operating well below capacity,” the report states.

It also advises reducing “staff positions through attrition, voluntary retirement and reducing the number of positions required” over a three-year period.

Here’s at look at some other key recommendations: (See full list here)

  • Procurement Cost Reduction Program – Implement a comprehensive Procurement Cost Reduction Program that covers 19 major procurement categories and is implemented over three waves of 8 months each.
  • Reduce Board-Sponsored Partnerships – TDSB should review all financial and in-kind contributions with a view of reducing expenditures in this area by 50%.
  • Administrative Process Modernization – TDSB should conduct a board-wide business process reengineering initiative to identify and eliminate process inefficiencies.
  • Executive Leadership for Implementing the Transformation Program – design and implement a new senior leadership organizational structure, covering both operations and academic.
  • Interim Financial Reporting Controls – The Finance department should review the process used to submit and review interim financial reports.
  • Increase Staff Allocation Holdbacks – Increase level of staff allocation holdbacks to minimize the risk of having more staff than needed.

TDSB Director of Education, Chris Spence, said the report was eye-opening. “It’s going to be tough medicine for us as a board, but we are going to take it as a gift to improve.”

“We have an opportunity to really get this organization on firm financial footing.”

The TDSB spent $55 million on supply teachers after the average elementary teacher took 18 paid days off a year, including sick days. High school teachers took an average 13 paid days off each.

Teachers are currently allowed 20 paid days per year, which can be banked. Ontario’s controversial new Bill 115 halves that number and doesn’t allow them to be carried forward.

The PWC study portrays a board that doesn’t have a handle on spending.

“Current senior level organizational structure lacks sufficient checks and balances to ensure that accountability is enforced effectively,” the report reads, adding that TDSB brass are underestimating its projected deficit for the 2013-2014 school year by more than $30 million. The board estimates it at $30 million while PWC forecasts a pending deficit of $62 million.

It also found evidence of “maverick” spending by staff on things like textbooks, hand sanitizer and stationery equipment, instead of adhering to existing contracts.

The report recommends savings of between $50-92 million dollars by 2014-2015 to get its financial house in order.

Minister of Education Laurel Broten is offering the TDSB a special advisory team to help get spending under control.

If trustees reject the offer, Broten says she will examine other options which could include sending in a supervisor.

“Nobody likes to feel threatened, so I’m going to say that what we believe the minister to be doing is offering us some assistance…” said board trustee Cathy Dandy.