Former infrastucture minister David Caplan has proposed school boards be, again, allowed to establish a levy on property taxes within Ontario for local purposes. Just to clarify, this would be on top of the 10% to 20% of your property tax bill that your municipality already passes onto the province for education.
Caplan’s bill would have the minister of education create a capital plan forcing school boards to identify what needs to be fixed. Boards could then raise an additional 5 per cent of their annual revenue from property taxpayers.I'm puzzled by so many parts of this.
In Toronto, that would collect an additional $100 million annually.
“That is a far cry from what they need. However, it would start to get them on the way with a stable revenue source to begin to make a dent in it,” he said.
Mindful that property tax hikes are never popular, Caplan insisted for most homeowners it would be $2 or $3 and more for business operators.
“It’s literally a cup of coffee … on your property tax bill,” the MPP said, adding the repairs will only get more costly.
Caplan, a former cabinet member, is certainly aware of how the ministry of education runs its capital programs. He should, therefor, know that school boards have been submitting rolling capital plans to the ministry for at least the last four years. They know (or, they should know) what state all of their facilities are in and what the priority projects are. The Good Places to Learn program was already supposed to address the most urgent of these renewal and repair needs (and there's been three? four? rounds already) over the past five years or so.
Some boards didn't put some schools on GPTL or other renewal funding lists because if you use GPTL funding on a school that facility should be excluded from being a candidate for closure.
Others have too many vacant pupil spaces, forcing them, until they're able to consolidate some facilities, to spend more of the benchmarked funding to maintain and operate facilities and less on maintenance and repair.
Second, I seriously doubt this private member's bill will go anywhere beyond first reading, with the writ about to be dropped in about six months.
Further, Caplan should at least be somewhat aware that in many parts of the province the education portion of property taxes is decreasing. Two provincial budgets ago, the province announced reductions in the percentage rates for industrial and commercial properties, that pay a larger percentage of their property taxes for education than residential owners do.
When it comes to new growth schools, boards still have the power to establish education development charges-- meaning they can collect a fee when a new lot is registered to put towards new-school construction. However they can't do that if they have too much existing vacant space.
Boards have also been receiving declining-enrolment grants, but those are drying up as they were never meant to be permanent, just stop-gap funding to allow boards to reduce enrolment-related expenses in areas such as its capital programs and utilities costs.
Does Caplan really want boards to plead with municipalities to add up to 5% onto tax bills?
I'm surprised it hasn't drawn an immediate reaction from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, since its members would take the heat for the increased bills, not the province.
Lastly, Caplan's claim that boards don't have a stable revenue source is laughable. With a small adjustment here or there, any board that has been doing its planning properly knows exactly what it's reasonable to expect until about 2013-14. Combined with the capital planning they've been expected to undertake in the last five years, no board should be lost here.
Whether they've been making the best decisions on capital is another possibility altogether-- but an extra 5% won't fix that problem.