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Toronto school board facility services to find $5-million in savings

Angelos Bacopoulos, chief facilities officer for the TDSB, is seen on Dec. 19, 2012.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto District School Board plans to reduce staff, increase oversight and use fewer skilled tradespeople for simple tasks in a bid to save $5-million for the 2013/14 budget.

Angelos Bacopoulos, chief facilities officer with the board, told trustees at the budget committee meeting that the maintenance costs would be cut by better oversight, reduction of overtime and downsizing of staff and the supplies they need.

"A large part of the $5-million comes from better accountability and better management of overtime. It's allowed us to right-size our work force," he said.

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Facilities services deals with maintenance tasks at schools. This includes custodians and more skilled tradespeople for more complex jobs.

In April, The Globe and Mail obtained data through a Freedom of Information request that showed more expensive skilled tradespeople were sometimes brought in to do menial work. This included $33,977.63 to hang photos and $56,531.76 to replace light bulbs for the board for the 2011-12 school year.

But Mr. Bacopoulos said his department is trying to use custodians more often instead of skilled tradespeople for smaller tasks such as installing pencil sharpeners and hanging pictures.

Mr. Bacopoulos said he is also looking at having more latitude to use non-unionized contractors, which would cost less. But he said students and teachers shouldn't see a difference in schools.

"We've added more accountability and increased productivity," he said.

Toronto School Board trustee Howard Goodman said the measures would reduce staff but it's hard to know how many positions exactly and they will not be those who work directly with students in the classroom.

"There's a significant part of the facilities savings that is reduced staff but there's a whole bunch of components to it," he said adding that the measures reflect the board's commitment to efficiency.

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"Every constituent we talk to wants us to be as efficient as possible," he said.

Mr. Goodman said there are at least two more budget committee meetings where this and other issues will be discussed before any recommendations go to the board in mid-June.

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