2014 TDSB Election: Ward 19 – Scarborough Centre

The Incumbent:

David Smith

The Race

Two TDSB candidates in Ward 19 chose to use our Voting Guide as a platform for presenting their ideas. Unfortunately, the incumbent in this Ward, David Smith did not share his ideas with us. Both candidates below recognize that an attitude adjustment is required at the Board to get spending in line.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Christopher Copeman, Scott Harrison, Sameer Rabbani, Muhammed Saeed, David Smith

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul My entire campaign is focused on cost efficiency at the TDSB. As soon as elected I will insist upon all finances being made public for full accountability of spending.
    Kerr, Marg It is critical that the TDSB spend within its mean. Funding for education is a Provincial responsibility and if there are truly insufficient funds, the Ministry has to be held accountable to rectify this situation. Balancing the budget based upon the resources needs to be one the priorities of the new Board of Trustees. The budget needs to be developed with the knowledge that there is a set amount that cannot be exceeded!

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul Cutting in a way of not affecting the quality of education but in stopping the waste of spending for example luxury items, guest speakers, over seas conferences, expensive pencil sharpeners etc.
    Kerr, Marg Rental of spaces instead of selling school properties with the understanding that when the demographics shift, the schools could be used as originally intended. Operational costs such as heating and electricity could be decreased through more stringent use of environmentally sound technology such as motion sensors for lights or shading systems for the windows. Better planning is required to prevent the massive costs that occur when regular maintenance, or minor repairs does not occur.

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul I will advocate 1 percent of the HST be set aside specifically for school boards.
    Kerr, Marg No

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul We need to completely overhaul the special education programs with better training for all involved in the special education program.
    Kerr, Marg Special Education is an area in which technological support and integration needs to be the common standard.

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul Provincial Government must lobby the Federal Government for a share of the surplus thus putting us on a clear path to a deficit reduction.
    Kerr, Marg A deficit of $109 million cries out mismanagement! If the money from the Ministry is not provided for a specific program or there is not an external source of revenue to support an initiative, the Board needs to consider whether it is in their mandate to operate the program.

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul I will overhaul the bidding process for all budgets to be met. Lowering costs will always be the main priority.
    Kerr, Marg The previous Boards have been “stealing” the monies that should have gone to pay for maintenance and using it for other initiatives. Money needs to be set aside for and used to maintain the buildings.

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul Yes
    Kerr, Marg Yes

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul Make sure that both sides are made aware of the current economic climate. Both sides should negotiate with reality in mind.
    Kerr, Marg Local issues that can be addressed should be done in a much less confrontational manner. Given what the Ministry has allocated for staff the agreement needs to be worked out within that budget line.

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul Yes
    Kerr, Marg Yes

  • Candidate Response
    Flesias, Paul Budget friendly policies are what I am for. I will encourage and insist upon greater transparency. I will want a system of approval of expenses prior to spending.
    Kerr, Marg Financial accountability should be the number one priority of Trustees.  Holding all managers accountable for staying within budget, maintaining accurate financial records and by not rescuing managers who go over budget by giving them more money, would help change the culture.

 

The full responses

  • 1. Evidence suggests the TDSB was warned in 2006 about spending problems. Previous Chair Chris Bolton chose to ignore these warnings until his resignation. Going forward, how would you address the issue of over-spending at the school board?

    My entire campaign is focused on cost efficiency at the TDSB. As soon as elected I will insist upon all finances being made public for full accountability of spending.

    2. The TDSB has been faced with a difficult decision about potentially selling school properties. To avoid this, where would you find savings in future budgets? List your top five specific priorities for savings.

    My top priorities on saving put me in my business background experience in cutting in a way of not affecting the quality of education but in stopping the waste of spending for example luxury items, guest speakers, over seas conferences, expensive pencil sharpeners etc.

    3. There are candidates who have proposed advocating for a new tax dedicated specifically for education. Is this a proposal you support?

    I will advocate 1 percent of the HST be set aside specifically for school boards. Should be noted that the federal government has substantial surplus. Although education is a provincial responsibility the Ontario government it should lobby the federal government for the increased funds for education.

    4. Failures in special education are considered by some to be the greatest failure in the public system. What is your plan for correcting this?

    We need to completely overhaul the special education programs with better training for all involved in the special education program.

    5. The current board saw the TDSB deficit balloon to $109-million – it’s biggest ever. What is your plan to address this going forward?

    As I stated before the Provincial Government must lobby the Federal Government for a share of the surplus thus putting us on a clear path to a deficit reduction.

    6. The TDSB recently estimated the cost of roof repairs to more than $2.5-million dollars. How would you ensure that necessary capital refurbishments are met within budget?

    I will overhaul the bidding process for all budgets to be met. Lowering costs will always be the main priority.

    7. Recently the Canadian Football League and Nissan stepped in to help school boards with the costs of organized sports. Do you support seeking more private investment at the TDSB?

    Yes, I do support seeking further private investment at the TDSB. It will also help reduce costs as this is my objective.

    8. What do you think is the best approach for the TDSB to take in upcoming contract negotiations with teachers and staff?

    The best approach to negotiate with Staff and Teachers is to make sure that both sides are made aware of the current economic climate. Both sides should negotiate with reality in mind.

    9. In short time, the agreement between the TDSB and Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council is up for re-negotiation. Do you feel there are changes needed in the current agreement?

    Yes, I do feel that changes are needed as we must be cost effective and keep in mind the current fiscal imbalance.

    10. TDSB has come under fire for ridiculous expenses – $150 to cut a key, $140 for a pencil sharpener, and a $200 toilet seat are just scratching the surface. How will you bring about a new culture that respects the budget and sees money spent wisely?​

    Budget friendly policies are what I am for. I will encourage and insist upon greater transparency. I will want a system of approval of expenses prior to spending. The past examples used in the question must never happen again

  • 1. Evidence suggests the TDSB was warned in 2006 about spending problems. Previous Chair Chris Bolton chose to ignore these warnings until his resignation. Going forward, how would you address the issue of over-spending at the school board?

    It is critical that the TDSB spend within its mean. Funding for education is a Provincial responsibility and if there are truly insufficient funds, the Ministry has to be held accountable to rectify this situation. Balancing the budget based upon the resources needs to be one the priorities of the new Board of Trustees. The budget needs to be developed with the knowledge that there is a set amount that cannot be exceeded!

    2. The TDSB has been faced with a difficult decision about potentially selling school properties. To avoid this, where would you find savings in future budgets? List your top five specific priorities for savings.

    Savings can be achieved through the rental of spaces instead of selling school properties with the understanding that when the demographics shift, the schools could be used as originally intended. Operational costs such as heating and electricity could be decreased through more stringent use of environmentally sound technology such as motion sensors for lights or shading systems for the windows.

    Better planning is required to prevent the massive costs that occur when regular maintenance, or minor repairs does not occur. When general and specific housekeeping issues are not dealt with or are put off, the cost to finally deal with the situation, because of the increased number of issues that follow, become exorbitant.

    3. There are candidates who have proposed advocating for a new tax dedicated specifically for education. Is this a proposal you support?

    The people of Toronto are taxed enough! A review of the manner in which the money that is currently being allocated to the TDSB is being spent needs to happen. Increasing the allotment through a dedicated tax would not necessarily allow a better accountability for the actual spending of the monies.

    4. Failures in special education are considered by some to be the greatest failure in the public system. What is your plan for correcting this?

    Special Education is an area in which technological support and integration needs to be the common standard.

    5. The current board saw the TDSB deficit balloon to $109-million – it’s biggest ever. What is your plan to address this going forward?

    A deficit of $109 million cries out mismanagement! If the money from the Ministry is not provided for a specific program or there is not an external source of revenue to support an initiative, the Board needs to consider whether it is in their mandate to operate the program. Going forward the Ministry of Education needs to be more transparent with what they are providing to the Boards and what components the Boards have no control over. Staffing, which is the biggest major cost associated with running the Board, is totally in the hands of the Ministry.

    6. The TDSB recently estimated the cost of roof repairs to more than $2.5-million dollars. How would you ensure that necessary capital refurbishments are met within budget?

    One of the reasons that the roof repairs were so costly is because the maintenance required over the last 15 years has not been happening in the way that it should. The previous Boards have been “stealing” the monies that should have gone to pay for maintenance and using it for other initiatives. Money needs to be set aside for and used to maintain the buildings.

    7. Recently the Canadian Football League and Nissan stepped in to help school boards with the costs of organized sports. Do you support seeking more private investment at the TDSB?

    I would support and welcome any private investment that would meet the values of the TDSB.

    8. What do you think is the best approach for the TDSB to take in upcoming contract negotiations with teachers and staff?

    In the upcoming contract negotiations the financial (salary) component is controlled directly by the Ministry of Education. As such, there is very little room for negotiations at the local level. Local issues that can be addressed should be done in a much less confrontational manner. Given what the Ministry has allocated for staff the agreement needs to be worked out within that budget line.

    9. In short time, the agreement between the TDSB and Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council is up for re-negotiation. Do you feel there are changes needed in the current agreement?

    There are some significant changes that need to come into place for this particular group. While the members are very skilled and definitely valuable the charging back to schools for labour costs needs to evaluated. Some changes have occurred since the public shaming of the TDSB for the cost of a pencil sharpener being installed however more is needed.

    10. TDSB has come under fire for ridiculous expenses – $150 to cut a key, $140 for a pencil sharpener, and a $200 toilet seat are just scratching the surface. How will you bring about a new culture that respects the budget and sees money spent wisely?​

    Financial accountability should be the number one priority of Trustees. Bringing about a new culture that does not just through money at a situation so that falls below the radar must be seen as one of the main concerns of all departments! Creating opportunities for staff members to come up with ways to safe money or reduce costs and publicly recognizing these savings and the originator of the savings would create a different culture. Holding all managers accountable for staying within budget, maintaining accurate financial records and by not rescuing managers who go over budget by giving them more money, would help change the culture.