Board of Ed. building deal may need more money

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina is calling it Hamilton’s “finest hour,” Hamilton City Council voted Tuesday to give McMaster University $47-million towards the purchase of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board administrative headquarters in downtown Hamilton.

The money will fund the purchase and demolition of the present Board of Education administration building at Bay and Main and its replacement by a new modernist health sciences building.

It appears that it’s a done deal

McMaster possesses the funds needed to meet the fair market value of the land ($9,033,500 by the 2010 tax assessment) and erect the new building.

The City is backing the development and the demolition permit does not need Council approval. (There are no residential units in the building)

There is one hurdle left – The Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education requires the Board receive sufficient revenue from the sale of the downtown headquarters to build their new Mountain headquarters without using any operating or capital funding from the province “enveloped” for the “classroom.” (The quotations reflect terminology used within education circles discussing the funding formula)

The sale of the downtown Education Centre to McMaster University at fair market value will not meet this threshold.

This leaves the provincial government with a choice:

  1. Enforce the regulation – forcing the Board of Education to stay in the building and McMaster to locate at the Innovation Park
  2. Bail out the Board of Education – fund the Board’s move to the Crestwood site on Hamilton Mountain

What choice will the McGuinty government make?

I’ve worked the phone talking to my contacts in the Mowat Block (home to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities) and the Pink Palace. Each contact offers a different assessment of the likely outcome.

I expect the province will find a “solution” to the Board’s financial shortfall and the new McMaster family medicine building will replace the Board of Education.