A couple weeks ago, Trustees of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decided to defer a rate increase for church groups that rent their public school facilities. The increase, which would have disproportionately raised rents for church groups by as much as 800%, sparked an outcry from local church leaders when it was first announced in September 2012. In response, the TDSB waived the rate increase until January 2013, and has now voted to defer it again until September 2013.

While this deferment is welcome news, the decision to re-categorize religious groups that meet in public schools has not been reversed. This means that starting September 2013, the rent subsidies provided by Ontario’s Ministry of Education no longer apply to churches. Religious groups are the only group being disqualified from these funds, even though these subsidies are designated to ensure “access and equity in use of facilities.”

Hundreds of churches across the city are impacted by this decision. Lisle Memorial Baptist Church, a CBOQ church that meets in a public school in the Jane-Finch community, was handed a rent increase from $9,157 per year to $44,390 per year before the rate hike was deferred. But with the huge increase looming again this fall, they’ve begun to seek out alternative meeting locations in their community.

Audley Goulbourne, Pastor of Lisle Memorial Baptist Church

Audley Goulbourne, pastor of Lisle Memorial Baptist Church, now encourages churches in other cities to get involved with the policy process before decisions like this are made: “We found we weren’t at the table and didn’t have a voice with the TDSB. So we have to get engaged in the process of decision making, and be more proactive in understanding the systems so we can influence policy in the future.”

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2 Responses to TDSB Defers but Does Not Rescind Rate Hike

  1. chris pyhtila says:

    The TDSB website says: ‘We issue more permits each year than any other school board in Ontario and are proud our facilities are a vibrant part of the community…Community Use of Schools is an initiative that supports access to school space outside of school hours for not-for-profit community groups.’ Hey, that sounds great doesn’t it!

    Then on the same page, a terse statement: ‘Although religious organizations are mostly “registered non-profit” bodies, the Board has determined that the cost of running religious services will no longer be subsidized.’

    No explanation offered. Just a big ‘RELIGION NOT WELCOME’ sign nailed on the door of Toronto public schools. Apparently for the TDSB their ‘pride’ in supporting a vibrant, diverse and – oh, the irony! – a ‘tolerant’ community does not extend to those community groups expressing faith in God.

    I reckon it’s time they discover that bigotry is ‘a stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.’ (Random House College Dictionary). For some reason they got it ‘zactly backwards.

    Chris in Thunder Bay

  2. What will Big Brother do if churches stop running youth programs, food banks, 12 step programs, counselling services, weddings, funerals, daycares, after-school programs, etc. Lisle Memorial Baptist Church has LONG been salt and light in their neighborhood. Let’s pray that Lisle Memorial will be blessed with a better landlord somewhere else.

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