New Westminster School Board Meeting Tuesday, April 25

Even with a provincial election we have to earn our pay and Board business carries on.

We have our monthly Board meeting Tuesday night and we have a number of significant items on the agenda.

  • 2017 – 2018 Budget
  • Adopting our new Policy Manual
  • Queensborough Busing Report
  • Audit Committee

2017 – 2018 Budget

We have some significant shortfalls in the School District. Not least of which is that we need to take out of our accumulated surplus (for the 2nd year in a row) $488,000 to keep this a status quo budget.  That means that if we did not have an accumulated surplus we would be cutting services and jobs to the tune of $488,000.  This is nothing more then a continuation of the Provincial governments underfunding of education. While we are hiring more teachers and restoring the illegally stripped language in the School District’s collective agreement with teachers, we are still not getting enough money from the province to cover the actual costs of running the school district.

I am still concerned about the government covering the actual costs of the restoration of the collective agreement. We may need additional portables for classrooms and space for the increase in non-enrolling teachers and I am not sure if the government will actually really fund these. For this reason for this year I support maintaining the status quo and not looking at increasing services, (for example restoring custodial services, including full replacements for custodial absences, additional services to deal with the increasing issues of mental health in adolescents, increased funding to support the Fine and Performing Arts in the school District, increased monies for transporting our athletes and supplying additional resources for teaching supplies and materials). I will relook at things at the end of September when we have classes set, we know what our 2016-2017 surplus is and we have a clearer understanding of the real level of funding that was provided.

Adopting our new Policy Manual

I have made my position well known about my opposition to our change in Policy. I believe that the School Board is surrendering it’s responsibility to monitor and govern the School District and placing too much unfettered authority into the hands of Senior Administration. I believe that we should have a more collaborative approach to governance with Trustees constantly questioning/discussing/collaborating about the decisions that our senior staff are making in following Board policy, not just the once a year that is in this new Policy direction. I will not be supporting the adoption of the new Policy Manual, and will continue to question Administrative decisions and will continue to press my fellow Trustees to change this approach.

Queensborough Busing Report

We didn’t seem to get much interest in this. I have long believed that this School District should purchase and run a couple of buses and use them for field trips, sports teams and fine arts programs. If we had done this we could be running a morning shuttle to both Queensborough and to Fraser River Middle. But no-one else seems to be interested and all I hear from our trustees around the province is don’t ever get involved in busing if you don’t have to.

I suspect with the low level of returns and involvement that we will not be entering the busing business this year.

Audit Committee

In November I brought forward a motion for the Board to consider the establishment of an Audit Committee made of School District Staff, Trustees and external experts to help make sure that the financial decisions that the Boards was making and that the reporting of information to the Board and Public was clearly understandable and transparent. Waiting 4 months has allowed events to overtake my motion. In one of the last acts before the election was called the Ministry of Education instructed School Boards to establish, by June 2018, Audit Committees.  I have changed my motion from wanting to set up an Audit Committee to an enabling motion directing our Superintendent to come to our Operations Committee next month and give the Board a timeline for establishment and adoption of an Audit Committee. I have included my original motion and rationale as part of this new enabling motion.

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Supplement to: OPERATIONS POLICY & PLANNING COMMITTEE

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Audit Committee

Background:

We need to establish an Audit Committee to help oversee the finances of the School Board. In the past decade we have had 4 different Secretary-Treasurers. In the first 3 situations we started off great for a couple of years, but then something happened and we ended up in unanticipated deficits or surpluses. Deficits or surpluses not authorized by the Board.

In June 2012 we ended the year with an unanticipated Unrestricted Operating Deficit of $2,790.052

In June 2013 we ended the year with an anticipated Unrestricted Operating Deficit of $4,898,109, if the Board and the new Secretary-Treasure had not acted when we did the deficit had been projected to be $5.6 million.

In June 2014 (we ended the year with an unanticipated Unrestricted Operating Deficit of $813,400.  The Board did not authorize, nor did it have any knowledge that we were recovering $4 million of our deficit our that year.

In June 2015 we ended the year with an Unrestricted Operating Surplus of $749,348, and I am not sure how much of that was anticipated and how much was unanticipated, but I do not believe that the Board made the decision to make the $1.6 million savings in that one year.

In June 2016 the School Board ended the year with a Unrestricted Operating Surplus of $1,365,020 (that is the total of last years surplus of $749,348 and this years surplus of $615,672). In addition the Board has a Board restricted Contingency Fund of  $500,000). That 2015 – 2016 Surplus of $615,672 was will within the expectations of a $400,000 surplus that the Board was anticipating.

Currently the Board has not yet been informed about the anticipated Surplus for June 2017.

We seem to be back on track now.

But I do not think that the School Trustees have the necessary expertise to review the work of the Secretary-Treasurer. We accept the Secretary-Treasurer’s information as correct and accurate but we have no ways of ensuring that the information is correct and accurate.

In the recent Milburn Report on the VSB Recommendation R#14

“The VSB create an Audit Committee, including in the membership of the committee external experts to provide recommendations on various strategies, financial situations, risk management scenarios, and other complex issues.”

My Old Recommendation from November 2016:

THAT the Operations Policy and Planning Committee recommend to the Board of Education for School District No. 40 (New Westminster) that the Board of Education establish an Audit Committee, Chaired by a Trustee, of external experts to provide recommendations on various strategies, financial situations, risk management scenarios, and other complex issues.

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My new motion simply reads,

Recommendation:

THAT the Board of Education for School District No. 40 (New Westminster) direct that the Superintendent report to the May Operations Committee on a proposed process, including timelines and composition for the establishment of an Audit Committee.

Author: Michael Ewen

Husband, Parent, Grandparent, Dog Owner, Public School Teacher, Public School Trustee

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