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TDSB trustees petition ministry over policy change to access existing repair funds

Last Updated Nov 2, 2017 at 7:10 am EDT

A group of Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees is petitioning the province to change a policy they say is keeping the public board from accessing much-needed funds.

New home developers are required to pay a fee to the city called the Education Development Charge (EDC), and while the Catholic school board has access to that fund, the TDSB can only request the money to build new schools.

According to the Ministry of Education, the discrepancy exists because the TDSB is considered to have “excess space.”

“Due to low board-wide enrollment, with the TDSB having only 241,000 students enrolled and a total capacity of over 310,000 pupil places, the board does not currently qualify for EDCs,” ministry spokesperson Heather Irwin said in a statement to CityNews.

But TDSB trustee Marit Stiles argues enrollment numbers are changing quickly, thanks to a growing population from condo development.

“We’re advocating the TDSB be allowed to access those charges, not just to buy new property, but to expand existing properties and fix our schools,” she said.

Stiles is one of the trustees behind an online petition asking for the policy change.

The TDSB has a growing backlog of repairs, with an estimated bill of over $3 billion. Stiles said some of the board’s schools are already over capacity, which has put a strain on aging infrastructure.

She said the TDSB’s only revenue-making option is to sell properties it owns.

“The TDSB, to pay for capital repairs, had to close schools across the city,” Stiles explained. “At this point, really, there’s nowhere left to squeeze.”

But while the province hears the board’s issues, the policy is one that affects schools all across Ontario.

“The ministry remains open to feedback on Education Development Charges, but recognizes that changes to this policy will have important province-wide impacts,” Irwin said.