Retain School Sites for Community Use

With the completion of the community consultation on the future of closed school sites, Save Our Schools (SOS) has called for the sites to be retained for community use and not sold to increase the Budget surplus.

SOS spokeswoman, Jane Tullis, said that the recent consultations show strong support to retain the school sites for community use.

“During the consultation, no community thought their local asset should be sold off. Local communities and broader community groups were virtually unanimous in stating that the closed school sites should be retained for community use.

“There is strong demand from ACT community groups for low-cost premises. Over 120 community groups are on the waiting list.

“Each community consulted wants to have a central voice about the ongoing use of school land and buildings in their area.”

“Hopefully, the consultant has heard the community message, a message that the ACT Government should also heed. SOS calls on the Government to prove it is prepared to listen to the people of Canberra and retain all of the sites for community use.”

Ms. Tullis said that the Consolidated Financial Report recently issued by the ACT Treasury demonstrates that there is no financial exigency that would require a sell off the sites.

“The ACT Government is rolling in cash. There is no need to add to the large surplus by selling off school sites. They should be used to support local community services and other demonstrated needs.

“Despite what the Government told everyone last year, it continues to run large Budget surpluses. The new Treasury statement shows a surplus for the financial year to date of $169 million – $55 million more than the Budget estimate.

“The Budget surplus for 2006-07 was $90 million instead of the deficit of $80 million the Government said we faced unless schools were closed – a turnaround of $170 million.

“The total aggregate surplus achieved for 2001-02 to 2006-07 was over $500 million and large surpluses are projected for the next 3 years.”

Ms. Tullis said that the Government should be looking at using the sites to serve the specific and evolving needs of local communities.

“Different community needs could be delivered by innovative strategies without any need to sell off land. The Government should also be looking to retain key sites for possible future uses as schools when birth rates increase as they have in some areas already.”

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