In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four the protagonist Winston Smith’s job is to retroactively alter historical records so that they will conform to whatever propaganda is emanating from the dictatorship in which he serves. There’s an element of revisionist history in the provincial regulation that requires School Boards to obtain full market value when selling surplus schools to the municipality in which they operate. In Hamilton we have recently heard the beginning of a debate over the value of schools which have become surplus. In the case of the now demolished Sanford Avenue School it is something of a moot point in that the property is being retained by the Board. In the case of Delta Collegiate, however, the school won’t close until 2015. But In the case of both schools, an argument can be made that the buildings should revert to the municipality without any transfer of funds because the citizens of Hamilton have already paid for them once. It is too late to save Sanford Avenue school but it is worth asking if a better use for the property could have been found if the city had not had to contend with paying market value for the building as is the case with current provincial policy. If the city could have acquired the property for a dollar it might have been easier to then find a private sector developer would have been interested in adaptive re-use of the property. In the case of historic Delta that is still a possibility but will be a much easier proposition if the property is not burdened with a multi-million dollar price tag that is essentially the transfer of funds from one taxpayer-supported body to another. Delta Collegiate was opened in 1925, when the province was only contributing about 12 per cent of the cost of education. Similarly, when Sanford Avenue School was opened the provincial share of education funding was only 14 per cent. That means the bulk of the money for these historic buildings came out of the pockets of depression-era Hamilton taxpayers. To now saddle a later generation of Hamilton Taxpayers with a second payment seems crazy and who knows, might not survive a court challenge. If the province wants to raise money on schools that it has funded in the years since Mike Harris took over responsibility for school funding, good luck. But Hamiltonians or, for that matter, taxpayers in any community with historical school buildings should not have to buy back what their parents and grandparents already paid for.
One Comment to: Here’s another form of downloading, making taxpayers pay for what they already own
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