Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NatPost on Toronto ARCs

Well, everyone arrives at the party some time. The National Post had an interview in today with Toronto District School Board chair John Campbell and other trustees regarding the need to start some accommodation reviews.
From the article:
Josh Matlow, trustee for St. Paul’s, said he will present a motion at the Aug. 26 school board meeting, requesting that the board consider closing 10 of its undersubscribed schools this year and 10 more the year after. A TDSB accommodation review committee would assess each school to determine whether it should be closed or has surplus space to be leased.
“I’m not calling for a fire sale,” Mr. Matlow said. “Some schools should be sold if there is no reasonable projection of growth in the community. In some cases, there may be community organizations that express interest in working with the TDSB.”
An inventory of schools released last year showed 92 of 533 public schools in Toronto have an enrollment of less than 60%, and the TDSB loses about 4,000 students every year.
“We wouldn’t be forced to cut valuable resources as we do every year if we managed our properties assets responsibly,” Mr. Matlow said.
The Toronto Lands Corporation (TLC) manages about 74 of the board’s properties that are either not in use as schools or school sites that contain excess space.
In the last year, the corporation collected $10.5-million in leased revenue and made $15-million through selling surplus or vacant property.
OK, I learn something every day too. I didn't know about those last two paragraphs. However, the reporter doesn't make it clear who gets that revenue-- the board or the TLC?
Welcome to the ARC party, National Post. I think this leaves the Globe and Mail as the only major Toronto-based media that has not written in any great detail about the pending Toronto reviews.
Also not touched on -- because they've not written about the changes -- is whether the TDSB will start reviews pre-Sept. 30 or amend its policies and start them post-Sept. 30. I would expect after.


Anonymous said...

What's interesting for me is that it would appear form Matlow's comments that he's already made a decision about the fate of schools without public consultation.

Shouldn't the TDSB be made to follow the same guidelines as the rest of Ontario's boards?

Does the TDSB have it's accommodation review policy up for the public to see?

I sure hope we're not making exceptions for Toronto...again.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you read Matlow's motion, he's asking for the ARC process to be done-following Ontario's policy on community consultation- I found it at his website www.joshmatlow.ca. He sounds pretty open to creative options but wants the TDSB to get real about its financial situation.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 10:12 - thanks - that's not clear in the linked article, but with so many undersubscribed schools to choose from to suggest a target of 10 may be considered a plan without consultation.

The TDSB should have gotten "real" about its situation a long time ago.

Pick a board, any other board in the province as an example.

(enter chorus here re: "but we're so big and have such a diverse population, it ain't easy being green...etc.etc.etc.)

RetDir said...

Why has the TDSB set up a fully owned corporation to handle its surplus assets? The advantages to the board would seem to be unclear - unless it is a way of keeping that revenue off the books somehow, although their consolidated financial statements should include it. And as a corporation earning $15 million a year, would it not have to pay taxes?
Worthy of some investigation.

Anonymous said...

"Worthy of some investigation."

No kidding.

Where are the good investigative journalists when you need them?

(not working the Big Smoke I guess)

Education Reporter said...

The setup of the TLC is actually quite interesting.
which is the shareholders' direction.
If you look at the second-quarter statement, http://www.torontolandscorp.ca/download.php?id=52, you'll see the budget has contributed $18.4M to the board's capital funds at its February mid-year, with a net operating profit of $1M and property sales of $17.4M.
I didn't do a full read here, but it would seem that by contributing to the capital reserve the TLC manages to stay within the parametres of the Reg444 of the Education Act. Trustees can then only use that money for either purchasing, reno/retro or building other capital projects. They can't use it to fix their operating budget issues.
By reducing schools (essentially creating more work for the TLC), they can shed operating expenses and turn that into either leased revenue or sold assets and money in the capital fund.
This is interesting. I'm surprised some of the other larger boards in Ontario don't do this as well-- please let me know if any others do.

RetDir said...

Thanks ER - I also looked through some of that material, and I guess I still don't understand the benefit to the TDSB of using a corporation to handle its surplus properties. All boards that are closing schools and/or disposing of other capital assets realize the 'profit' from the sales, and the proceeds of disposition have to be reserved for capital work, as ER notes above. Generally business departments are responsible for this.

Anonymous said...

But even with the TLC the TDSB has almost 100 properties that it could dispose of, more than any other board but haven't been, which means that they haven't been generating anywhere close to the revenue they could be. Are they not sitting on one of the busiest real estate markets in the country???

If the TLC is a subsidiary of the TDSB and it's sole shareholder, are they not subject to the same tax provisions?

A friend once shared that "the TDSB is a beast like no other"

Education Reporter said...

My guess would be the TLC was setup just because of the sheer size of everything in the TDSB. Shift all the surplus property issues off to a subsidiary (which can borrow TDSB staff when it needs to) and allow TDSB to concentrate on operational facilities instead of spending part of their days hocking empty sites.
As above, a unique model, and I'm surprised some of the other larger boards haven't done the same.