Education Minister Mike Bernier today appointed Peter Milburn as a special advisor to lead the forensic audit and full review of the Vancouver School Board.
Milburn, who recently retired as B.C.’s deputy minister of finance, will be supported by Ernst and Young, the same professional services and audit firm that conducted the VSB review in 2015. The forensic audit and review are due back to the Ministry of Education by Sept. 30, 2016.
“With his years of experience and his leadership on numerous financial files, Milburn is the right person to lead the forensic audit that will scrutinize the financial situation and board operations in Vancouver,” Bernier said. “Close to half a billion dollars are invested by taxpayers in the Vancouver School District and we need to know that money is going to services that directly support students.”
While 59 of 60 school districts in B.C. passed balanced budgets by the end of June, Vancouver failed to do so. At the same time, the board said staff were making cuts to achieve a balanced budget.
“This refusal to follow the School Act and pass a balanced budget to stop cuts while at the same time claiming staff are implementing cuts is confusing for parents and students,” Bernier said. “Worst of all, it’s part of an ongoing pattern in Vancouver where claims of budget shortfalls have preceded the board adding to its accumulated surplus almost every year. This has to end.”
There are 6,500 fewer students in Vancouver today than there were in 2001 – a drop of more than 10%. And yet provincial funding flowing into Vancouver has risen by 20%. At the same time, the Vancouver School Board has chosen to put $37 million a year towards empty seats – instead of student services.
“We are providing record education funding in Vancouver and throughout the province,” Bernier said. “This forensic audit and review will help us make sure that record funding is going to support students – and point to next steps that will benefit students.”
Two backgrounders follow.