Scott Harrison suggests slashing number of trustees

A proposal to cut human resources and staff in the Toronto District School Board may prove beneficial, says trustee Scott Harrison.

Harrison is proposing decreasing the number of trustees from 22 to 20 due to declining student enrollment and the unequal distribution of trustees across the district.

“If you look at the inequality of the system, there are parts of the city that don’t have as much representation as others,” said Harrison. “If you look at the declining enrollment in the board, we should be re-evaluating the staff and our boundaries.”

Harrison said the board faces a $17-million deficit and cutting staff is necessary.

“If it’s possible to save money and resources and if it (creates) a more equitable distribution for a community, then you do it,” Harrison said.

Realigning the trustee boundaries will give each ward more equitable representation, which is good news for Scarborough students who currently have less than one-quarter of the vote even though they represent more than one-third of the board.

“Things won’t change 100 per cent,” said Harrison. “But communities will have more of a say with their representatives.”

He proposed this idea four years ago when the provincial boundaries were realigned, suggesting trustee wards should be changed as well. Harrison said the timing wasn’t right and at the time overhauling the system would have been difficult to achieve by the election of that year.

“I think for simplicity it was easier to just follow the provincial and federal boundaries, [and] just max out as many trustees as they could take,” Harrison said.

Currently, the board can have a maximum of 22 trustees and a minimum of five representing it. Harrison issued a report proposing a decrease in the number of trustees as the best way to represent the newly defined wards.

He said the new boundaries will help amalgamate the board further by no longer using Victoria Park as a boundary for Scarborough wards.

The changes may meet with some opposition, Harrison adds.

“Change is always a hard thing to do,” said Harrison. “We need to lead by example and the onus is on the board of trustees to create a fair system for the voting public.”

The report will be up for approval this March and if passed, the changes would be put in place for the 2014 election.