Friday, June 21, 2013

DSB awaits province OK to sell millions in property

TORONTO - Toronto public school board trustees have approved a three-year plan that could see them sell off millions in property.

They now have their fingers crossed hoping the province will approve it.

The Toronto District School Board approved the capital plan close to midnight Thursday but must now hope the provincial government lifts a capital funding freeze imposed last year.

Queen’s Park slapped the freeze on the Toronto board following cost overruns on school renovation and construction projects.

TDSB vice-chairman Shaun Chen said the board had hoped the freeze would have been lifted earlier when the current fiscal year’s capital budget had been balanced.

“I’m very hopeful we can move forward,” Chen said. “There is a lot of need in our system. We have schools that are busting at the seams and students need a safe and appropriate learning environment. That includes our facilities.”

Chen would not discuss specifics about the plan, which media reports indicate could raise as much as $162 million and apparently includes a list of 11 properties to be sold.

“The plan will see board generating revenues from property sales, would spend on key priority capital projects,” Chen confirmed.

The province must first approve the plan before it can proceed, but that won’t be the end of their work with the Ministry of Education, he said.

“Even with individual projects the ministry has to give approval to proceed on each of those projects,” Chen said. “They’re there every step of the way.”

Lauren Ramey, spokesman for Education Minister Liz Sandals, said the ministry has yet to receive the TDSB capital plan but expects it will be submitted “shortly.”

The ministry will also review a report submitted by a “special assistance team” appointed to help the board with its finances, she said.

“We’re hopeful the TDSB’s capital plan will address the conditions to lift the capital freeze,” Ramey said in an e-mail. “We’ve been clear that the freeze did not mean that the board should stop all accommodation and capital planning efforts and it did not apply to any projects already underway.”
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