Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Swimming, Swimming, who will pay for the swimming pool?

Once upon a time conventional wisdom was that swimming pools should be built in schools. This trend has stopped as pools are now part of the new trend towards multi purpose community centres. There are currently 78 swimming pools in schools in Toronto run by TDSB. The pools carry an annual operation budget of $45 million. The city currently pitches in $5 million and TDSB has been skimming money off of the funding formula that is supposed to be directed to ESL students to help keep the pools open.

With TDSB facing another cash crunch they are once again threatening to close down the pools. Education Minister Kathleen Wynn has said it is not her departments problem because Toronto is the only jurisdiction where schools operate swimming pools. The city is proposing increasing the budget for the swimming pools by a mere $300, 000. They don't want to take over the responsibility for operating cost of a TDSB (Provincial) asset.

The bottom line is that swimming pools provide a valuable service to the city. Child obesity and lack of physical activity is a big concern. They also provide a place for people to cool off during heat alerts without the high costs of air conditioning.

The fact the pools happen to be located in schools does not reduce their importance. Building new pools when perfectly good ones are already in use, is a waste of taxpayers money. Someone, anyone needs to step to the plate and recognize that these are valuable assets for the city and must remain open. Failure to do so, would be just another example of how out of touch our politicians are.

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