Every year the provincial government seeks input from individuals and organizations to build their budget. The provincial budget impacts community use of space in many ways, both directly and indirectly.
This year, the SPACE Coalition provided a pre-budget submission which focused on community use of school spaces. We made three concrete recommendations:
- Restore the Priority School Initiative (PSI) funding.
- As early as possible, confirm the Summer Focus On Youth (FOY) funding for facilities and jobs for students facing challenges.
- Increase Community Use of Schools (CUS) funding by the cost of inflation to offset increases in labour and utilities costs.
These investments all maximize the capital assets of our school buildings while building healthier and safer communities. Community groups utilize volunteers and also provide local jobs, thus supporting both skills development and local economies. Subsidized access to facilities means participation fees are affordable for residents so they can join and benefit from sport, recreation, arts and cultural activities.
In general, community use of schools provides the following benefits:
- Improved student performance,
- Life-long learning,
- Good value for taxpayers,
- Physical activity and healthy lifestyles,
- Safer neighbourhoods and crime-prevention,
- Newcomer settlement and integration.
These recent articles illustrate the importance of local access to space for youth sports.
However, the elimination of PSI funding in 2019 meant that community groups saw sharp increases in the cost of school space for their programs, or lost the space entirely. One group, for example, saw its space use fees increase by 43%. Another group, which had previously offered indoor soccer at 4 schools, reduced this to one school.
SPACE thanks you for maintaining the FOY program in 2019, providing jobs for primarily at-risk youth as well as facilities for summer camps. FOY’s return on your investment includes healthy lifestyles for children, youth with transferable employment skills, and the effective and affordable supervision for their school age children that working parents rely on. For 2020, to ensure effective program planning, we urge you to confirm FOY funding as early as possible. This will allow school boards to select the students they will employ, community groups to plan effective programs, and parents to plan their children’s activities.
The Community Use of Schools funding recognizes that schools offer an effective use of taxpayers’ investments in providing a place for residents to come together, volunteer, become physically active, and build strong and healthy communities. Increases in labour and utilities costs have eroded this investment, so we ask you to increase the funding by the cost of inflation.
You can access the full PDF version of our submission here.
Send your own submission to the Ministry of Finance by February 11:
The Honourable Rod Phillips
Minister of Finance
c/o Budget Secretariat
Frost Building North, 3rd floor
95 Grosvenor Street
Toronto ON M7A 1Z1