What funding is needed to maintain our schools?

In October 2014, a report studying the impact of deferred maintenance in American schools found that, “…school districts, financially squeezed over long periods of time, made economic decisions that reduced the most cost-effective types of maintenance work. The results of those decisions to ‘save money’ will, in the long term, actually increase the amount of frequency of much more expensive breakdown repair and replacement work.”

The TDSB is living this reality at the moment, as is evidenced by a May 2015 Staff Report on the TDSB’s Renewal Needs Backlog. With a current repair backlog of $3.3-billion and provincial funding totalling only $74.9-million in 2014-15 and $156-million in 2015-16, the repair backlog is expected to grow to $4.36-billion by 2017. In an environment where the TDSB is receiving a fraction of the money needed to address its repair backlog, TDSB Facilities Services staff is unable to carry out much preventative maintenance because it is consumed with reacting to emergency repairs as these occur. The report referenced above, entitled, “Reversing the Cycle of Deterioration in the Nation’s Public School Buildings”, (RCD) found that reactive work orders cost approximately 173% more to implement than preventative maintenance work orders.

The RCD report suggests that between 2-4% of the total replacement value of all schools needs to be allocated annually for maintenance, if buildings are to be kept in a good state of repair. The replacement value of TDSB schools is estimated to be $7.4-billion, as calculated by the Ministry of Education. If an amount totalling 3% of this total replacement value were allocated annually to take care of maintaining TDSB buildings, that amount would be $222-million. Keep in mind, that this amount does not address any existing repair backlog due to deferred maintenance – only year-to-year routine maintenance.

So at the TDSB, we have a situation where funding must be found to address the $3-3-billion repair backlog that is expected to grow to $4.36-billion by 2017. As well, additional funding must be found to simply take care of the routine maintenance associated with taking care of TDSB school buildings each year. Given the Provincial allocation of $74.9-million this year is $147.1-million short of what is required and that amount is also meant to take care of the repair backlog, we have a big problem on our hands.