School closures would be ‘big hit’ to South Dundas economy, $15-17M says consultant

South Dundas Economic Development Officer Rob Hunter and consultant Rick Clayton of Doyletech Corporation sit in the South Dundas council chambers on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2016 prior to a special council meeting. Doyletech estimates the South Dundas economy will take a $15-17 million hit if the public schools are closed. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

MORRISBURG – A specialist in economic analysis says people in South Dundas will be “substantially affected” by the proposed Upper Canada school board closures.

During a special council meeting Thursday night (Jan. 5), Rick Clayton of Doyletech Corporation told South Dundas council, the overall economy in the township will be hit with a $15-17 million loss if Seaway District High School is closed and students from the two elementary schools in Morrisburg and Iroquois are moved into the high school building.

That’s a combination of negative economic impact ($10.5-12.5 million) plus a decrease in spending by $5.5 million a year in a township that has a $17 million budget.

“How would you like to have to pay one third more for all the same services? If the economy goes down that much, that’s the kind of burden that is going to get placed one way or another on the community,” Clayton said.

Doyletech is doing studies for five of the six SD&G townships (the exception is North Dundas). South Stormont’s report will be delivered Wednesday night (Jan. 11).

“There’s a lot of bad news about this right away,” Clayton said about busing students to Winchester and Prescott.

“The hit is not going to be as bad as you might think in some respects. Some things turn out to be not so bad. On the other hand, I’m afraid, some other items (it will be) awful,” Clayton told roughly 40 people at the South Dundas Municipal Center.

Clayton said loss of teacher jobs will not be as bad due to union bumping rights. But support staff, such as custodians, will be greatly affected and will be “vulnerable.”

Based on their analysis, Clayton said roughly half of the teachers living in South Dundas will leave over five years, taking the dollars that they spend in the township with them. “A lot of spending is not going to happen. They go to the grocery store. They pay their municipal taxes. That’s the part of it that gets lost,” Clayton said.

Roughly 40 people listen to consultant Rick Clayton of Doyletech Corporation (not shown) on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2016 during a special council meeting. Doyletech estimates the South Dundas economy will take a $15-17 million hit if the public schools are closed. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Some of the highlights of the report include:

  • Half the student body of a school spends $10 at businesses within walking distance of the school. In the case of Seaway District High School, that would be about $412,000 a year that local businesses would lose if the school closed.
  • The net job loss for South Dundas would be 18 full time equivalent (FTE) positions.
  • Net economic loss to South Dundas would be $5.5 million a year.
  • Loss of money to governments: municipal $46,000, provincial $329,100, federal $231,900.
  • Families moving from the area (using 10 per cent as an example) would result in a loss of $2.2-2.7 million a year to the local economy
  • With no schools, home building would dry up, resulting in an annual loss of $2 million in the construction sector.

The Doyletech study cost South Dundas $4,000.

The study will be included in South Dundas’ submission to the Upper Canada school board before it makes its final decision in March.