Province, allow schools to collect developers’ cash!

Current rules restrict school boards’ ability to collect levies from builders and what they can spend it on

Ali Youssefi, parent council co-chair, and son Kamyar, 10, in front of McKee Public School, which has almost doubled its size to 775 students since Youssefi’s eldest son started there a decade ago.
Ali Youssefi, parent council co-chair, and son Kamyar, 10, in front of McKee Public School, which has almost doubled its size to 775 students since Youssefi’s eldest son started there a decade ago.  (CARLOS OSORIO / TORONTO STAR) |   
“Families are moving in and new condos are being built, but where are all these children going to go to school?” said parent council member Melody Nguyen, whose children Sarah Bui, 6, left, and Russell Bui, 7, attend Elkhorn Public School, which has 400 students and five portables.
“Families are moving in and new condos are being built, but where are all these children going to go to school?” said parent council member Melody Nguyen, whose children Sarah Bui, 6, left, and Russell Bui, 7, attend Elkhorn Public School, which has 400 students and five portables.  (CARLOS OSORIO /TORONTO STAR) | 

Condos shoot skyward in pockets of Toronto targeted for high-density growth. Yet the Toronto District School Board can’t collect a cent of levies from developers to expand overcrowded schools there.

The smaller Toronto Catholic board collects millions of dollars a year in “education development charges” as new building permits are granted. But that board is also handcuffed, because it can use the funds only to buy new land, and not for additions or repairs to existing schools.

None of it makes sense to a group of frustrated Willowdale parents and TDSB trustees, who say the system is unfair and outdated, and want rules governing the charges amended in booming Toronto locations like North York and along the Yonge St. corridor.

On Monday, they will make their case at a public meeting with Education Minister Mitzie Hunter.

Willowdale has seen an explosion of new families “but the money is not following for school infrastructure,” said Jaime Brand, chair of the parent council at Hollywood Public School near Bayview and Sheppard Aves, which is operating at 150 per cent capacity with 400 pupils.

Every day that builders launch new projects and aren’t required to kick in for education, “thousands of dollars are thrown aside” that could be put toward schools for kids moving into their buildings, she said.

There are two issues strapping Toronto boards: requirements to qualify for education development charges calculated per residential unit; and limits on how that money can be spent.

To be eligible, a board’s total enrolment has to exceed capacity, which is not the case at TDSB, which has surplus space and underused schools in some areas. That leaves it in a unique position among Ontario boards — unable to collect development levies to fund badly needed expansion elsewhere.