Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Funding for new DYS denied

The Rainy River District School Board has learned none of the eight projects it submitted to the Ministry of Education under the Capital Priority Funding Application were approved.
That includes the request to fund a rebuild of Donald Young School in Emo, as well as a number of high-priority projects at various schools.

“When I questioned the ministry on this, they explained that the Capital Priority Funding was designed for new builds,” noted Laura Mills, the board’s Superintendent of Business.
“And the ministry felt that the high-priority projects we submitted were only renewal projects and they didn’t fit the funding,” she explained.
Mills said at the time the board was making its submission, it was not aware the ministry was using the Facility Condition Index (FCI) of 65 percent as the benchmark for determining funding levels for this application.
“We felt that a number of our renewal projects were so significant that we were attempting to secure funding of the Capital Priorities allocation,” she told trustees at the board’s regular meeting here last night.
Mills indicated she discussed with the ministry the new school rebuild in Emo, which explained some of the criteria it used to make its decision.
For instance, one of the criteria requires a new build to address significant long-term overcrowding, to which the ministry responded that DYS is not over capacity.
Another criteria indicated a new build would consolidate schools.
But after a lengthy Accommodation Review process, the board recently agreed to keep DYS, Crossroads, and Sturgeon Creek schools open rather than consolidate them.
Finally, it required high facility needs, such as an FCI of more than 65 percent.
DYS has an FCI of 56 percent.
“It’s no big surprise,” said trustee Dan Belluz. “We didn’t meet the criteria but we still applied and that is fine.”
“I think at the time that we started the initial Accommodation Review, by the time we had completed the third school, the criteria had changed,” noted trustee David Kircher.
“By the time we did submit, the likelihood of it being approved was not there.
“However that was not the case of the intent when we first started,” Kircher stressed.
Mills also said Grants for Student Needs recently were released by the Ministry of Education and some capital funding was included in that.
“That GSN was highly capital-intensive,” she remarked, noting the focus on the GSN for next year’s funding was efficient use of school space.
Mills indicated there is a provincial pot of $750 million for capital—and it’s for right-sizing schools and consolidation.
“We’re also going to be seeing an increase in funding for renewal needs under our FCI allocation,” she added.
Mills said the board has been receiving that funding for three years now and will receive about the same amount next year.
But the pot will double in the two years following that.
“So there is capital money in the budget,” she said.
“The new build money is application-based, like the Capital Priorities money, but the renewal money will be flowed on the annual basis.”
“Regardless of what the ministry might do with their money, we know that we have to do something with Donald Young School,” said board chair Mike Lewis.
“That’s been our aim, that’s our goal,” he continued. “We went through a very thorough and long Accommodation Review process. . . .
“Because the finance branch of the ministry doesn’t like that decision, it should not inhibit us from pursuing the fact that we need to do something with Donald Young School.
“It is the base of how all this started for us,” Lewis added, noting the FCI indicates the school does need a lot of work.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of that,” he concluded.

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