UPDATE: Ministry Responds to Report TDSB Overcharged for Minor Work
Not long after Toronto District School Board trustees voted to explore selling parts of schoolyards to raise badly needed cash, there's news that the board has apparently been charged what appears to be outrageous amounts for work at schools.
A Toronto Star investigation reports that taxpayers were charged $143 dollars to install a pencil sharpener and $3,000 to put in an electrical outlet in a library.
The paper reports that the union with an exclusive contract to carry out work has at times billed many more hours than it took to complete projects. Taxpayers were billed 76 hours for the electrical outlet, which reportedly only took four hours to install.
The office of the Minister of Education sent an e-mail to reporter Amber Gero stating: "It is our expectation that boards make the best use of our public education dollars. We’ve been clear that we expect boards to focus spending on students and the classroom experience. Just like we have had to make choices as a government, boards also have a responsibility to make important decisions.
We look to all boards to makes choices that protect the gains we've made together including lower class sizes, full-day kindergarten and more teachers and support staff in our schools. The TDSB has acknowledged this as a concern and we are pleased the board is taking steps to address this issue."
The union boss tells the Star the billings were because of "clerical errors" and says much of the money has been refunded to the schools.
There are 900 electricians, carpenters, maintenance workers, and plumbers that are paid by the TDSB, but highly influenced by the union that represents them.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (about half the size of the TDSB) has 70 full-time workers with some tasks contracted out.
The board recently approved a budget with $109 million dollars in budget cuts that one trustee called a "bloodbath"
In an e-mail response sent to Newstalk 1010's Amber Gero, former Toronto District School Board trustee and current City Councillor, Josh Matlow, wrote: "The TDSB must get real about this. There are school facilities across Toronto in disrepair while their trades fees far exceed what's found in the private sector. This isn't fair to students or their parents."