The Scarborough Basketball Association (SBA) uses Toronto District School Board (TDSB) facilities as a space to run its programs. About 2, 500 kids participate in these programs alone. Meanwhile, the TDSB is facing an $11-million budget shortfall.
This shortfall will potentially affect those thousands of youth that rely on programs like the ones offered by the SBA. The TDSB has decided to recover that shortfall by increasing the permit fees paif by community groups like the SBA.
Ryan Bird, a communications officer for the TDSB, says without the money recovered, it will affect other necessities for TDSB schools.
“It means that money isn’t going toward the maintenance and the upkeep of our facilities and our classrooms,” he said. “We had to do something because we couldn’t continue to subsidize at the same level.”
Sam Moncada, the president of the association, says fees could be hiked substantially.
“On average, facility rates right now are $35 per hour,” he said. “After the increase they could be as high as $75 per hour.”
We want community groups to be able to use our schools
— Ryan Bird
Along with the 43.7 per cent across the board fee increase, the board is also instituting a re-categorization of some of the community groups to alter the way the money is subsidized. Originally, this re-categorization was supposed to happen at the beginning of September, but the board decided to push that date back to Jan. 1. This decision was made last month and, according to Bird, the hopes were to help the groups by deferring the date.
“I think the board realized that there wasn’t a lot of time,” he said. “The re-categorization is to bring it closer in line with the ministry guidelines on permit fees and groups.”
During this extended period, both the TDSB and Moncada say they are working hard to find alternative options. Mocanda says he is working towards trying to solicit more support amongst trustees. Bird says there is a committee also in play.
“In the meantime the whole idea is currently back before the Community Use of Schools Advisory Committee,” he said. “They are looking at options. We want community groups to be able to use our schools.”
Bird says the permits department will continue to work with all of the groups to try to save them money. However, it must be done in a financially responsible way, he says.