Province appoints advisor to look into VSB's books
The British Columbia government has appointed the province's comptroller general as a special adviser to review the Vancouver School Board's financial performance.
It's the latest round in an ongoing fight over education funding.
The board has said it's facing an $18-million budget shortfall this year, which will force it to make cuts that "will shake the very core of the system."
But Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid says Vancouver's operating funding will actually increase, although enrolment is dropping.
"The Vancouver board of education is either unable or unwilling to manage its resources to protect the interests of students, and we are interpreting this as an indication this board need extra help," the minister said in a news release announcing the review.
MacDiarmid said the Vancouver board has proposed "unacceptable" measures to deal with its budget.
"We believe there are other options available and the appointment of a special advisor will ensure resources are being focused on students in the classroom," she said in the statement.
The province is facing a $1.7-billion budget deficit this year itself, and the education minister said all public entities must look for "administrative efficiencies."
Comptroller general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland will review the board's budget and make recommendations for meeting the budget set out by the Liberal government, reporting back to the minister by May 31.
Officials from the school board were not immediately available to comment.
School boards, municipalities and other public entities are legally required to balance their books in B.C.
Other school districts facing cuts for the 2010-2011 school year include Kamloops-Thompson, which is facing a $2.4-million deficit, Nechako Lakes, which is looking at a projected shortfall of $3.8 million, and Central Okanagan, which predicts it will be $4.7 million in the red.
The Cowichan Valley district on Vancouver Island has said it's facing a shortfall of between $1.8 million and $4.4 million, while the Mission district has said it's looking to cut $3 million from its spending.
Earlier this year the trustees of the Cariboo-Chilcotin school board voted in favour of running a deficit in spite of the provincial law barring them from doing so.
The Vancouver board sent a letter to parents at the end of March warning that they faced a shortfall.
"Without money to cover this shortfall, we must either sell off assets, find ways to increase revenue or reduce spending, as the board is legally required to balance its budget," said the letter.
The board admonished the provincial government, saying "It's important that our provincial leaders understand the difficult decisions we face due to deficiencies in the provincial funding formula for education."
However, MacDiarmid said the Vancouver School Board's operating funding will increase to an estimated $443.1 million next year, although there will be an estimated 108 fewer students.
She said enrolment has declined more than 3,000 students since 2000, while operating funding has increased $85.2 million.