The chair of the Toronto Police Service Board is proposing to outsource the school crossing guard program as part of a cost-reduction strategy for the 2013 budget.
“My inquiries show that the program can be operated by an external provider at a lower cost to the Board,” Alok Mukherjee, chair of Toronto Police Service Board, said in a proposal to be discussed by the board.
TPS spends approximately $7 million per year on the program which employes around 620 part-time crossing guards. The program also requires at least one police officer in each police division to coordinate the guards.
According to Mukherjee, outsourcing the program will result in lower costs due to savings in supervision and coordination. The provider will remain accountable to the board for quality and standard of service, Mukherjee said.
Although disappointed, Mona Piper, the president of the Crossing Guard Association, isn’t surprised by Mukherjee’s proposal.
“They tried it before and they didn’t get anywhere with it,” says Piper, who has been a crossing guard for 40 years.
Last year when the outsourcing was first proposed, the Crossing Guard Association protested in front of City Hall. The proposal was eventually put aside at that time.
Piper has lived in the Davisville and Bayview neighbourhood for over 50 years and has been serving as a crossing guard for children attending Maurice Cody Child Care since moving there.
“I’m crossing children of the parents that I’ve crossed, three generations,” she says.
“It’s not an easy job, I mean we’re taking our life in our hands every day. We don’t do it for the pay, that’s for sure.”
Ida Baan, who also works for the association and has been a crossing guard for 12 years, doubts that an external provider can maintain the same quality of service.
“If it is contracted out, they don’t realize what the legal ramifications are, and what the cost responsibilities are, because crossing guards have to be provided with training, with the security, the background check, they have to be also provided with the uniforms,” Baan says.
She is doubtful that an external provider will be as thorough as the police in performing background checks.
A spokesperson with the TPS says that the board still has not made a decision on the proposal. The issue is before a budget sub-committee for further discussions.