February 2014 Update

Ward 7 – TDSB Budget Update – February
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the TDSB Capital Crisis

TDSB Students deserve more … and by more – we don’t mean more than their fair share but certainly more than they are currently receiving – which is much LESS than what most other children attending public schools in Ontario receive.

Our children deserve a clean, safe, healthy and comfortable environment conducive to learning. TDSB (the Board) schools are old and in need of renovation, repair and renewal. The Board requires $3.2 billion dollars to repair and update our schools and this does not include money needed to build or expand schools in neighborhoods where TDSB schools are full.

In addition to the challenge of funding renewal, our city is growing rapidly and becoming more dense. This growth presents opportunities and challenges. In the past 10 years building applications for 129,000 units were processed by the City. Today there are building applications for 277,000 residential units in process. Students in neighbourhoods where intensification is occurring, are either spending their day in crowded, over-capacity schools or bussed considerable distances to a school outside their community. The Board needs capital to expand or build new schools to handle this growth.

Our children deserve more. Enhancing Toronto schools must become a priority. Investing in our schools benefits our students today and will help to attract globally talented families and help keep students in the public system  … our students are the foundation of our City’s future prosperity.

To resolve our TDSB Capital Crisis, parental and public support needs to be generated for the following:

  1. Changes to the provincial funding formula
  2. Providing TDSB Access to Economic Development Charges from developers
  3. Judicious review of the sale of TDSB schools and properties.
  4. No further reduction to TDSB operating grants
  5. Allowing Boards access to the provincial tax base
  6. Creation of a dedicated City tax levy for the school board
  7. Speed up and simplify Municipal Planning process
  8. Shared responsibility for TDSB school sites with the City
  • TDSB has been operating for many years with surplus or extra space in their schools. The Ministry will not provide TDSB will additional money until the extra space issue has been resolved. Of the 588 TDSB schools – 100 are below 60% capacity.  Downtown intensification of housing developments and the addition of high-demand programs like French immersion are creating an influx of students in certain areas or pockets. The TDSB has 105 school sites above 100% enrolment; 29 are above 120%. This is a complex issue.
  •  Boards are paid by the province based on the number of students. Overall declining enrollment (due to lower birth rates) in Toronto has meant a reduction in funds received year after year.  However enrolment projections and trends indicate Elementary Enrolment has turned around and is now on the increase. Secondary Enrolment (impacted by the elimination of grade 13) is projected to be positive within 20 years.
  • The Board’s planning is impacted by Provincial policies such as primary class, size caps, full day kindergarten, the elimination of Grade 13 and pending changes to required credits.

The following is a summary of the current Board budget situation provided at the February 25th Ward 7 Meeting by Carla Kisko, the TDSB’s Associate Director of Operations and Finance. Carla gave an excellent presentation on the challenges facing the School Board and City around capital planning.  We have attempted to outline the key budget issues as presented and comment on what these mean.

The Good …
The TDSB Operating Budget

After years of deep cuts and lengthy debates to balance its Operating Budget, the TDSB will easily balance its operating budget for 2014-15. The Operating budget is the annual expenditure plan for the Board, supporting student learning and Board operations (83% is staff costs).

For the first time ever, Trustees will approve the Operating Budget in March – well before the Ministry of Education announces its funding grants so strategically, the TDSB will be out in front of the Ministry. Typically the Board has had to scramble to balance the budget in June after the Ministry has announced changes (reductions) to the annual grants.

What does this mean?

Over the last several years the Board and Trustees have been focused on the Operating Budget dealing with annual reductions as high as $100 million in 2012-2013. This should mean the end of significant staff reductions and with the Operating Budget under control the focus can be directed to addressing the issue of the Capital Budget. The stakeholders involved should be able to devote more time to the development of a strategy for future facilities renewal and accommodating Toronto’s future intensification and growth.

The Bad …
TDSB’s Capital Budget

The Capital budget is the plan for expenditures to address growth, repair and retrofitting of school facilities.  The TDSB’s Capital Budget and our schools are in a horrific state, with $3.2 Billion in current renewal needs, which is evidenced by leaky roofs, inefficient drafty windows, erratic heating systems, and decrepit washrooms .. look around your child’s school and you are certain to add to this list!

202 of TDSB’s 588 schools are in CRITICAL CONDITIONaccording to Provincial Ministry’s own building standards for calculating facility conditions.

What does this mean?

Our children go to school in old, worn-out schools in need of extensive repairs, which do not provide a comfortable environment for learning. The Board critically needs a strategy to obtain money for the repair and renovation backlog and additional hundreds of millions to build and expand schools in the city’s high-growth areas.

The Ugly (and the Inequitable) … of the Capital Budget
Unfair Provincial Funding

The Province provides TDSB an annual grant for school renewal of $45.5 million. To put this into perspective, to address the repairs required in the Board’s worst 41 schools requires $900 million. Since 2008-09, the Province has provided $2.8 Billion of capital funding to Ontario School Boards.  Only $94.5 Million of this funding, or 3.4%, has been allotted to the TDSB, despite the fact that the TDSB teaches 12.6% of Ontario students.

What does this mean?

 Enrolment projections show the TDSB will increase by 16,000 students by 2038.  The TDSB should have the same access to Provincial funds to support enrolment growth as all other Ontario school boards. We need to continue to fight for changes to the Provincial funding formula.

 No Access to Economic Development Charges

 Most school boards in Ontario benefit from new development by receiving “Education Development Charges” (EDCs) from developers.  The Toronto Catholic School Board has been receiving $1,303 per residential unit and $0.94/square foot of non-residential development and over the last 10 years this board has accumulated over $300 million in this manner.  In contrast, the TDSB has been receiving $0 from developers. The Province deemed TDSB and other boards with excess capacity ineligible to receive EDCs.

Being denied access to these EDC’s is a travesty of justice and denying funds does not speed resolution of the problem. Developers should equitably support the communities impacted by their developments. Toronto has several areas of extreme development causing over-capacity in our schools (i.e. Ward 7) and funds are desperately needed to address this impact.

What does this mean?

Changes are needed to the Provincial Education Development Charges Act – both to how these funds can be used and providing access to them. Doing so will allow the TDSB access to the $300+ Million in EDCs that could be generated from the developments in process in Toronto over the next few years. Restrictions in access are a Regulation to the Act and can be changed without onerous effort or negative financial impact to the province.

No Access to the Tax Base

Given that the Capital Budget of the TDSB has been allowed to slip into such a horrific state with $3.2 Billion in current renewal needs, the only viable, long-term solution is access to the tax base.  Although taxes are not popular, they are the ONLY SUSTAINABLE way to fund “common good” items such as schools, roads, and infrastructure.

The Province has continually told the TDSB it must fund capital renewal/repair by selling off its schools that are operating below capacity.  In addition to being a short-sighted solution, given the projected increase in students in the next 20 years, it is also an incomplete solution.  For example, if the TDSB were to sell off all 100 schools that currently operate below 60% capacity at an average price of $8 million per school, the TDSB would receive total proceeds of $800 million, which would only cover 25% of the current $3.2 billion of current renewal needs.

In 2011 the TDSB (under provincial mandate) sold off one of its newest schools West Toronto Collegiate, with its state-of-the-art facilities and 3.4 hectares of land, to the Catholic and French School Boards for a total revenue of $20.5 million dollars. To build a replacement school in this area, which is right on the border of our own over-capacity ward, would cost an estimated $70 million. Dealing with low-enrolled schools must be a high priority for the Board. Selling off schools in fire-sales for short term gain is wrong.

Redeveloping sites, creating partnerships and selling schools must be done in a strategic, planned manner which ensures space for future growth and protects Toronto’s green space.

What does this mean?

The only way to correct the existing capital infrastructure crisis and prevent it from worsening, is to create a sustainable, annual revenue stream. The TDSB and other boards need access to the Provincial tax base via a levy designated for school infrastructure. And / or it also needs access to the Municipal tax base – perhaps via a green space levy (TDSB provides a vast amount of green space to the City yet receives nothing from the City to maintain this green space).

What Can Parents Do

Become informed and involved, review the materials and media available.

Get vocal and demand greater Provincial financial support for our children’s education and equity in the distribution of tax payers funds.

Write, email, call your elected officials and let them know you are dismayed by the current state of TDSB schools and the inequity and impact of the existing funding formula.

It is critical that elected politicians hear from us, involved and engaged parents, to let them know what is important to us.  Let them know we collectively believe these changes are required to ensure the future success of public education in Toronto for our children.

Take pictures of the capital problems your school faces and send them to your elected officials.

There are both Provincial and Municipal elections this year, question your candidate, ensure your chosen candidate supports education and the required changes.

Ensure your Municipal candidate supports a collaboration between the City and the TDSB, both organizations need to work together to share plans, projections and strategies to jointly ensure our City grows in a responsible manner, high quality educational facilities are equitably available  and our green spaces are preserved.

Contact the media and tell them a story about the detrimental state of schools in the TDSB.

Email Contacts:

Kathleen Wynne, Premier MPP kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition – MPP tim.hudakco@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath – Leader Ontario NDP, MPP ahorwath-co@ndp.on.ca
Liz Sandals, Minister of Education lsandals.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Donna Quan, Director TDSB Donna.Quan@tdsb.on.ca
Peggy Nash, MP Peggy.Nash@parl.gc.ca
Cheri Di Novo – MPP dinovoc-co@ndp.on.ca
Jane Phillips-Long, Superintendent Ward 6 Jane.Phillips-Long@tdsb.on.ca
Curtis Ennis – Superintendent Ward 7 Curtis.Ennis@tdsb.on.ca
Sara Doucette – Councillor Ward 13 councillor_doucette@toronto.ca
Gord Perks – Councillor Ward 14 councillor_perks@toronto.ca
Irene Atkinson – School Trustee Ward 7 Irene.Atkinson@tdsb.on.ca