As the issue comes to a head, people across the city are willing to support a property tax increase to convert closed schools into community hubs.
“Would you approve or disapprove of a property tax increase if the money went exclusively to purchasing closed schools and converting them into community centres and parks?”
Not Sure: 22%
±2.00%, 19 times out of 20
Interactive voice response telephone survey
NOTES: A new Mainstreet Technologies poll shows that a majority of Torontonians approve of a dedicated property tax increase for the City to purchase surplus TDSB properties and convert them into community centres and parks. Among decided respondents, 69 per cent approved the notion, and 31 per cent disapproved.
The poll comes at a crucial moment in the discussion over TDSB school closures. School board trustees meet this evening to discuss three outstanding directives from the Province, including approving a preliminary list of 60 schools that could be closed to help solve the board’s budget woes. Up to nine of the 60 candidate schools could face closure, with 68 per cent of the 48 elementary schools on the list coming in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods. The board must meet the Province’s directives by Friday.
Mayor John Tory has called for cooler heads to prevail in the schools debate. In a letter to the provincial minister of education and the chairs of the TDSB and TCDSB, he stated that more public consultation and a willingness for both sides of the debate is needed in order to meet halfway. Despite this preference, the City of Toronto is not in a good position to purchase the TDSB lands that may become available. While the City will have a chance to purchase the real estate, it would have to put an offer together within 90 days of the schools becoming available, and it does not have the money. After the 90-day mark, the portfolio of assets would become available to non-government investors.
The City currently faces its own budget challenges, with an $86-million budget deficit that needs to be filled by early March. Although the Mainstreet poll indicates strong public support to raise property taxes to purchase the schools, any meaningful increase that would put the City in a position to buy schools would break Tory’s promise to keep taxes within the rate of inflation.
Tory’s approval rating is a very healthy 72 per cent, which is one per cent lower than it was in January, but within the margin of error. His approval is highest in the old city of Toronto, at 83 per cent, and lowest in Etobicoke, where it is 56 per cent. It is typical for mayors to enjoy robust approval ratings in the first few months following election.
The TDSB does not enjoy the same popularity. Among decided respondents, only 36 per cent approved of the job the board is doing, with 64 per cent disapproving. The board has been mired in multiple scandals and controversies over the past year; in a rebuke to the board, half of the 22 seats are filled by newcomers who won election in October.
You can watch the school board meeting online starting at 5:30 p.m.