A Forensic Audit of Board Expenses and Review of the Vancouver School Board has come down, and it doesn’t sound good.
The document contains dozens of recommendations on how to improve efficiencies and generally make things run more smoothly.
It also chastised trustees for not always respecting staff during board meetings, and for failing to sell “surplus” real estate like the Kingsgate Mall to balance the 2016/2017 budget.
Trustees had rejected that sale, noting the property brings the district $750,000 a year in revenue.
In a conference call with reporters scheduled just minutes after the report dropped, Education Minister Mike Bernier reacted.
“What I find most troubling in the special advisor’s report is how the Vancouver School Board allowed money to be tied up in inefficiencies, rather than spent in classrooms, in services to students, and on teachers.”
“Stability has been put at risk by overstaffing compared to other school districts, labour agreements driving additional call out, duplication, and idle time, and a failure to use surplus real estate like the Kingsgate Mall to set a new path for fiscal sustainability.”
The audit, penned by special adviser Peter Milburn, makes 31 recommendations, and refers to a prior Ernst and Young audit which makes 28 recommendations of its own.
As for allegations of bullying and harassment, the report says WorkSafeBC is investigating and is not part of the scope of today’s review.
In the wake of the Board’s failure to pass a June budget, and citing concerns raised when he read a draft of the report, Bernier fired the board earlier this month and replaced it with a single trustee.
Fired trustee Patti Bacchus was quick to respond to the report, calling it nonsense and arguing B.C. “has the second lowest per-student funding in Canada.”
As for Bernier’s claim Vancouver schools are overstaffed, Bacchus calls that a “load of baloney.”
Report makes sense to former member
Former NPA Vancouver School Board member Fraser Ballantyne says he agrees with much of the forensic report.
Ballantyne says many of the inefficiencies referred to in the report relate to subsidization, and he blames Vision trustees for bad decision making.
“The Vision-dominated board had the control of the board, so we can only speak up and say so much, but at the end of the day, they make those decisions. Had we made proper decisions around stewardship, we wouldn’t be in this jackpot of $15 million shortfall this year, and $21 million last year, and that’s the frustration that I think I feel.”
He says that money could have, in fact, been saved rather than lost.
“I talked with the secretary treasurer a number of years ago over the consolidation of adult [education]. The savings that could have been made over three years was $13.3 million. So you double that, that’s $26 million that we could have saved, had we, I guess, acted earlier.”
Ballantyne added that he was happy the report was finally released so that parents could better understand the situation.