Missing in action … one very much needed public school

It’s pass the buck time and the families of students returning Tuesday to Wellington Street Public School are fed up with the nonsense they have endured all summer.
Russell Brownlee is one of those affected parents and his frustration fairly leaps out of the letter he forwarded to the Times-Journal this week.
 According to either the Thames Valley District School Board or the Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services,” writes Brownlee, “this wonderful school, which is still very much needed and will be occupied by over 200 students this coming Tuesday, no longer is being recognized as an institution of learning.”

 If you rememer, the heritage-designated property was the scene of a closing ceremony in June, however construction is still underway at Pierre Elliott Trudeau school (formerly Homedale) and these students will be housed at Wellington until the new year.
 A decision was made (by whom?) to cancel the (bus) route affecting all the students whose residence is 2 km away from Trudeau,” notes Brownlee, “including 40 families whose children will still be getting their education at Wellington.”  
 rownlee and company have spent the past three weeks, to no avail, attempting to get a resolution to the busing dilemma.
 Since Wellington is still open until Christmas, why can’t the bus company continue their service as it has been done for many years? Interestingly enough, the TVDSB is blaming the bus company and vice-versa.”
 This last minute scrambling is due also to the fact that some families are not even informed and will not realize that the bus route is cancelled until they will wait at the bus stop on Tuesday.”
 What is truly frustrating in this Keystone Cops caper is the finger pointing and organizational ineptitude emanating from the London-based school board entrusted with the education of our children.
In a report to be presented to council when it reconvenes Tuesday, treasurer Bill Day is projecting a $445,000 operating deficit for 2009.
Typically at this time of year, the city has found itself in a surplus budgetary situation, although the black ink has become fainter of late.
A couple of highlights are worth noting, observes Day. “Low interest rates, coupled with reduced cash flow associated with capital expenditures will result in a deficit in investment income earned this year.”
Compound that with “an increase in Ontario Disability Support Program caseloads and increased program costs per case,” and you’ve got a budget deficit.
In fact, the latter item is projected to result in a $275,000 shortfall this year.
Other significant drains on the budget include: increased repair and lease costs for the city’s transit system ($40,000); forgiveness of library fines and emergency repair costs ($25,000); and an increase in legal and fuel costs for police services ($20,000).
As a result, Day is urging council to press the provincial government to meet with the corporation to address the reduction in municipal partnership funding grants this year and next.
The grant had been reduced from $5.2 million in 2008 to just over $4 million this year. And Day expects the funding will evaporate further to $3.2 million in 2010.
Letters of concern from Mayor Cliff Barwick and MPP Steve Peters to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan “have brought no response to date,” Day acknowledged.
All of which will add a heightened dimension to the city’s budget deliberations next spring, mere months in advance of the November municipal vote.
Get set for creative financing at a major league level.
T-J reader Iris Wellwood found herself strolling by the Jumbo monument Thursday and the elephant that made St. Thomas famous is looking a little worse for wear.
“I was shocked at his condition,” she writes.
“There is a crack across most of his ride side and he certainly could use a new coat of paint, especially on his legs.”
It’s a little depressing when this St. Thomas icon mirrors the tumbledown appearance evident when driving along South Edgeware Road.
We’ve said it before, it’s all about keeping up appearances and sending a message loud and clear – St. Thomas is open for business.
A week ago in this corner we documented the chronology of events that led up to the inaugural meeting of the Community Schools Alliance last month in Ottawa, attended by John Wilson of Malahide, who serves on the executive committee.
John, the former warden of Elgin county, dropped us a quick phone call this week to observe, “we’re not looking for special treatment, we’re looking for fair treatment for rural schools.”
Over the course of his lengthy political career, John has always had a knack for getting to the nitty gritty of the task at hand.
“There is no group in the world that are better money recyclers than CFDCs.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston credits the Elgin Community Futures Development Corp. after he announced a $500,000 grant Thursday in St. Thomas.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to:

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