By RTH Staff
Published June 13, 2012
Judith Bishop, Trustee for Wards 1 and 2 of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), just sent an email to her constituents explaining her decision to support a motion to shut down the task force to find a downtown Education Centre location.
Here is the text of her email:
I voted to terminate the Task Force with the City for the following reasons. Originally the Task Force was to report to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board at the end of March. By the end of May, financial figures were still not available, and the City's proposal entailed properties, some of which it did not own yet, or only partially owned. Further delays have negative financial and other consequences, while the model proposed would need a new business plan which needed time to develop. Finally there is uncertainty that HWDSB could afford the City's model.
A new Education Centre has to be funded by the School Board. There are no provincial funds or grants for such projects. Neither are there other donors. The process to fund a new Education Centre began in 2007. (More information can be found about this process at http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/aboutus/education-centre-project/).
The present Business Case for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board's new Education Centre is built on the following components:
Funding the new Education Centre will not use funds that could be used for schools and students
The cost of repairing the existing four administrative sites is almost as expensive as building a new Education Centre.
Repairs for the buildings would cost $28.7 million. A new education centre will cost $31.6 milion.
A new building will be smaller than the existing four buildings, but use space more efficiently, be greener, consume less energy and require less maintenance. *The annual operating savings for such a building are calculated at $1.3 million annually
Savings from operating one efficient building instead of four inefficient ones will be used to finance the cost of the new building.
The building will also be financed by the sale of only land which has been used for non-instructional purposes* such as the existing Education Centre at 100 Main Street west.
To accommodate McMaster University, who need the land for their purposes as soon as possible, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is vacating its 100 Main Street West site before a new Education Centre is ready, and going into rented space. However, the cost of leasing this space is higher than the cost of operating the present four administrative buildings (i.e for heat, light, cleaning, etc.). The difference is being covered by a grant from McMaster, and is available for two years only.
If HWDSB were to extend its leases beyond that period, it would need to find additional funding or use funds earmarked for schools and students. So continuing in the present leased space after two years is not an option.
Why, on May 31st, the HWDSB terminated the joint City /Board Task Force set up to explore further down town locations for an Education Centre.
Possible Delays - As can be seen from the above, a new Education Centre has to be ready in two years, otherwise additional expenses will be incurred through leasing temporary space for which the HWDSB has no funding source. The plan put before Trustees by the City staff for a down-town location involved some land which the City does not already own. Land acquisition may take considerable time. Any plan needs to provide HWDSB with a permanent Education Centre by August 2014. The City's proposals could not guarantee this.
In addition, any changes to the business plan require the approval of the Ministry of Education. The present Business Case took eight months to complete. Any amendments could face similar time delays as well as some uncertainty as the Province is now proposing further amalgamations of school boards in southern Ontario. Delays could be both expensive and detrimental to building a new Education Centre.
Cost Efficiencies - As Councillor Farr indicated, the former Knitting Mills near Dr. Davey school were part of the City's proposal. It contains building elements dating from the 19thcentury. No financial figures have yet been received from the City. An essential component of the Education Centre business case is that the new Education Centre will help pay for itself through a more efficient new building. There was no guarantee that this would indeed be the case or, if it was made efficient, that it could be afforded by HWDSB.
The core responsibilities of the HWDSB are to schools and students. The cheapest and most efficient solution for the Education Centre has to be found that will not compromise building and maintaining new schools, or services for students. So obviously, funding the new Education Centre must not use funds that could be used for schools and students.
The Task Force with the City was terminated when questions arose about possible delays, and the proposal could not guarantee an efficient building, or an efficient building that is affordable to HWDSB. Funding was at risk of being taken away from the Board's core responsibilities.
Although not a glamorous solution, the Crestwood solution is the cheapest and least risky. It enables HWDSB to continue to direct all its available funds towards schools and students.