The Toronto District School Board will receive capital funding from the provincial government to renovate only one school, despite receiving project approval for six.
Chair Chris Bolton said that puts Canada’s largest school board in a position of having to sell properties to pay for urgent renovations and rebuilding needed to cope with student growth.
“Selling off properties that are important community spaces to support capital needs is not sustainable. We should be getting our fair share of provincial funding,” Mr. Bolton said.
The Ministry of Education had announced $700-million for capital improvements for schools across the province. The TDSB learned on Friday that only Bloor Collegiate Institute will receive government funds.
The ministry had approved five other priority sites – George Webster, Avondale, Sprucecourt, Chief Dan George and Highcastle – but the TDSB will have to finance those, the board said.
Selling land tends to be controversial among trustees, some of whom say it may be needed in the future.
“In their board approved capital plan, the TDSB identified that it would self-fund their 2013-14 capital projects that they submitted to the Ministry,” a spokeswoman for Education Minister Liz Sandals said. “We have communicated to TDSB on various occasions that we expect the board to self-fund a portion of their capital needs. We have also let the board know that the Ministry will contribute to addressing a portion of the board’s capital needs.”
Trustee Shelley Laskin said she was frustrated that the TDSB, which supports 12 per cent of the province’s student population, was not given proportional access to funding.
“Why are we expected to fund growth pressures created by new development? This is not sustainable. TDSB needs access to equitable funding and development charges to support school space pressures that result from development,” Ms. Laskin said.
The TDSB has faced widespread criticism for the way it spends on construction projects, and a $10-million budget overrun at Nelson Mandela Park Public School prompted the Ontario government to cut off funding for new TDSB building projects in the fall of 2012. That money was restored in exchange for a promise from trustees to sell unused school land.