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Budget watchdog sent to Vancouver school board

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 | 5:01 pm

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The provincial government has appointed a special advisor to examine the Vancouver School Board's financial performance, B.C. Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced Wednesday.

The appointment is the latest volley in a war of words that has erupted between the ministry and the Vancouver School Board (VSB) over its funding for the coming school year.

“The Vancouver board of education is either unable or unwilling to manage its resources to protect the interests of students,” MacDiarmid said. “We are interpreting this as an indication this board needs extra help.

“As a result, I have appointed a special advisor to assist the district by examining the board's budget planning processes and opportunities for administrative efficiencies.”

The VSB has estimated an $18-million funding shortfall for its 2010-2011 budget.

The board says its options to meet the shortfall include staff layoffs, shortening the school year by 10 days, cancelling programs or closing schools, according to chair Patti Bacchus.

MacDiarmid accused the VSB on April 8 of “fear-mongering,” and said the board is in the habit of predicting budget shortfalls and ending up with surpluses.

The board should be looking for ways to “do things differently” in order to deal with its budget, the minister said.

The special advisor MacDiarmid appointed Wednesday is B.C.'s Comptroller General, Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland.

“The special advisor will review the board's budget development process, benchmarks, financial forecasts and position, management capacity, administrative expenditures, and opportunities for economies of scale, and make recommendations to assist the board to meet its obligations under the School Act,” the education ministry said in a release.

The advisor will report back to the minister by May 31, giving the board a month to complete its budget process by June 30, the release said.

VSB directors were not immediately avaialble for comment on the advisor's appointment.

CBC News

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