TORONTO, Jan. 18, 2016 /CNW/ - On January 22, 2016, construction of the Central Tech sports field will stop until further notice. The state-of-the-art track and field is one of three projects resulting from public/private partnerships between the TDSB and Toronto-based field operators. The field was slated to open in time for Central Tech's spring athletics season.
The work stoppage comes after TDSB Trustees Jennifer Story and Ausma Malik ignored a senior staff report recommending a tax exemption for all TDSB championship field partners as the projects were built primarily for the benefit of TDSB students. The City of Toronto has granted similar exemptions to its partners, including Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, a $3 billion corporation that operates a similar facility at Lamport Stadium. By bringing a motion to defer the exemption, the Trustees have put the TDSB partnerships in a position of uncertainty and at risk of failure, and have betrayed their own students in the process contrary to their primary duty to focus on student wellbeing and learning.
Razor Management Inc. (Razor), the operator of the Monarch Park Collegiate championship field and the unfinished project at Central Tech, is the only TDSB partner to receive a 3-year retroactive tax bill. Field Recreation Inc., the field operator at Lakeshore Collegiate, which was the first to build and open their facility, has yet to receive any tax bill. To Razor's knowledge, no other TDSB partner is being taxed (private solar panel companies, private cafeteria operators and private day cares).
"I find it highly suspect, not to mention discriminatory, that four days after the Central Tech project is approved by Toronto City Council last spring, Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) emails us to let us know that the City has asked them to assess us retroactively at Monarch Park and at both schools moving forward" says Matt Raizenne, President of Razor.
In early 2015, the City along with six other parties, including Razor, negotiated in an intense Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) mediation process for the successful resolution of all outstanding concerns regarding the Central Tech project. Prior to mediation, the TDSB took the City to court twice on the project.
The day after City Council approved the OMB Minutes of Settlement that all parties unanimously supported, the City asked MPAC to retroactively assess Razor. The City did not ask MPAC to assess their partners who have similar agreements on City land, or the other TDSB field operator at Lakeshore Collegiate.
The local City Councillors for Central Tech and Monarch Park did not support the TDSB championship field proposal at Central Tech and campaigned against the project. Trustees Story and Malik were voted in after campaigning with these same Councillors during the last municipal election. In addition, Trustee Story formerly worked as the executive assistant to another City Councillor who tried to stop the new field and dome at Central Tech.
"We are against being treated differently than other TDSB partners. This is inherently unfair and discriminatory. And when City Council agrees to grant a tax exemption to a $3 billion company like MLSE, and then turns around to assess us retroactively, one has to wonder what is really going on. We are the only TDSB partner being asked to pay property tax on land that we do not own. What is happening to us feels like legalized extortion," says Raizenne.
Razor and its lawyers notified the TDSB of the tax situation on October 21, 2015 and has repeatedly requested to meet with TDSB officials to discuss the issue. Razor and its lawyers have also repeatedly advised the TDSB that there would be serious and detrimental impacts for students, the community and the partnerships. Despite this, it took the TDSB 90 days to agree to a meeting at the end of January 2016.
At the December 9, 2015 TDSB Board meeting, Trustee Story blamed Razor for the situation, accusing them of acting "last minute" saying "my father-in-law likes to say, poor planning on some peoples' part does not constitute an emergency on my part." At the Board meeting, she did not notify her fellow Trustees that Razor is the only TDSB partner being asked to pay property tax and that there would be negative impacts on students and the communities.
"We are spending over $13 million to improve TDSB infrastructure for the primary benefit of students – money that the TDSB does not have and desperately needs – and they won't even return a phone call," says Raizenne, expressing his frustration. "Trustees dismiss their own experts and legal advice and pick and choose which facts to use to suit their own political agendas. It is astounding. The dysfunction and politics at the TDSB is well known across the city and at Queen's Park, and this is just another shocking example of why the public has lost confidence in the TDSB Trustees."
As a result of the Trustees' action, Razor was given 38 days' notice to pay a $505,000 retroactive tax bill that is due at the end of January and will be responsible for approximately $200,000 a year moving forward at each facility. "We are a small business with twenty two employees, twenty of our staff members are under the age of 30. We are not a billion dollar corporation. We are building infrastructure that the City and the TDSB desperately need, and that the TDSB asked us to build for them. There is free community access at our facilities. There is no free community access at Lamport Stadium where the City gave MLSE a tax exemption in 2009," says Raizenne. "Remediating the Central Tech track and field over the last four months was extremely expensive and now the business model has changed out of the blue and our partner is nowhere to be found. It is unfortunate that the students and the community ultimately are the ones who lose."
SOURCE Razor Management Inc.
For further information: Paul Rosenfeld, Director of Operations, Razor Management Inc., firstname.lastname@example.org, 416.466.2255