September 17, 2014 

 

Niagara on the Lake Taxpayers Double-Billed for Lawsuit Costs 

 

The District School Board of Niagara is expressing its disappointment that taxpayers in Niagara are being required to bear the burden of a legal action being taken against the Board by a citizens group in Niagara-on-the-Lake. On August 29, the DSBN received notice the group had filed for a judicial review of the decision made by the DSBN’s democratically elected Board to consolidate Parliament Oak Public School with Crossroads Public School, located less than seven kilometers away. 

 

Although ratepayers across Niagara are being required to subsidize the cost of this suit through the public dollars allocated to the DSBN, those in NOTL will pay a portion of the applicant’s costs and for the DSBN’s defense, now that Town Council has allocated $10,000 of taxpayer dollars to support the group’s efforts.  

 

“The reality is that these legal undertakings are extremely expensive,” said Kevin Maves, Chair of the DSBN Board of Trustees. “The last time a group in NOTL brought an unsuccessful action against the DSBN, the Board incurred costs in excess of $100,000. We feel that amount of money would have been better directed at supporting the education of our students.”  

 

The Board has been criticized over its enrolment projections, with some in the community contending that Parliament Oak’s enrolment will experience growth in the coming years. There are currently 92 students in the English stream at Parliament Oak, which is fewer than what the DSBN projected during the Accommodation Review in the 2013/14 school year. Enrolment projections were made, in part, by using data provided by the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. “We relied on this data in good faith. Is Council suggesting it does not trust the validity of its own data?” asked Maves.  

 

A report of Watson and Associates commissioned by the Town projects the majority of population growth to continue to occur outside the Old Town. In fact, 82% of future growth is expected to take place in St. Davids, Glendale and Virgil, while only 18% will occur in the Old Town.  

 

According to Watson, this growth is expected to occur over the next 25 years. With the potential for 743 dwelling units in the Old Town, this amounts to roughly 30 new units per year. As a result, DSBN staff project that Parliament Oak would have expected approximately one new student per year.  

 

“Consistent with Trustees’ decisions in other similar Accommodation Reviews in Niagara, we believe that schools of that size are not viable over the long term. Combining Parliament Oak and Crossroads will lead to the best possible educational outcomes for students and the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake will have two vibrant and viable public schools to support students.”
 

Chair Maves also expressed disappointment over some of the comments from some Town Councillors reported in the media. “Perhaps this friction has developed through a fundamental misunderstanding of our relationship. For their benefit, I would like to clear up any misconceptions that may yet exist,” said Maves. 

 

“The Education Act states that local school boards are responsible for ‘providing education programs that meet the needs of the school community,’ and ‘determining the number, size and location of schools.’ This mandate from the province is unambiguous. While we are pleased to collaborate with, and receive constructive suggestions from the Town, the Board does not take direction from Council,” said Maves. 

“This Board is unwavering in its commitment to student success and has made this decision with the best interests of students in mind. We are working to enhance the learning environment for all students in Niagara and we invite the Town’s positive contribution in that regard,” concluded Maves.