SPACE Co-Chair Speaks to TDSB on Permit Increase

On Thursday, June 1, the Finance, Budget and Enrolment Committee of the TDSB received a report on permit fees increases. As outlined in article 6.18 of Policy P.011, fees are adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Therefore, it was recommended that permit fees be increased by 6.3% for permits beginning September 1, 2023, except for outdoor fields for which the new fees will be effective January 1, 2024.

SPACE Coalition Co-Chair Susan Fletcher made a delegation to the committee, recommending that the board consider opting for a smaller increase or deferring it to allow users more time to plan and budget.

The report will be considered by the full Board on June 14.

Read the full delegation below.

Delegation to TDSB Finance, Budget and Enrolment Committee
June 1, 2023

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. I have been part of the SPACE Coalition (Saving Public Access to Community space Everywhere) for more than 20 years. The SPACE Coalition advocates for affordable, accessible and equitable access to public space, particularly in schools.

Way back in 2003, during the spring provincial election campaign, SPACE contacted the major parties to describe community groups’ difficulties paying the then-new fees for community use of schools and ask how they would help. As it happened, the Liberal Party said they would provide funding to school board for CUS, they won the election, and they brought in the first $20 million of provincial funding in July, 2004.

I am here today to speak on behalf of community-based nonprofit arts, sports, civic engagement and other groups. While I am a member of the Community Use of Schools Community Advisory Committee, and understand that the TDSB policy on CUS states that annual fee increases will reflect the cost of living increases, small organizations probably do not know this.

In fact, earlier today, I spoke with a senior staff of a group that is sophisticated with permitting space. And they did not know about the policy.

Many groups will have already set their registration fees for fall programs, and may even have begun registering participants. These groups are already dealing with volunteers dropping off because of COVID, challenges in volunteer recruitment and retention, difficulty fundraising, and all the other issues stemming from COVID, lockdowns, school closures, etc.

They are trying to offer activities that will support individual and community well-being and health.

I know you are dealing with significant budget challenges but urge you to consider alternatives to increasing CUS fees for nonprofits. Maybe one option might be increasing commercial and filming rates. Or perhaps you can defer the increase, allowing groups more time to plan and budget for the increase. Or opt for a smaller increase this fall – perhaps 1 or 2%.

We are all still dealing with the effects of the pandemic and part of this work should include re activating school spaces for community use. Keeping costs low is one essential component in making this happen.

Susan Fletcher,
SPACE Coalition.