Faced with an $800K budget deficit, Okanagan Skaha School District votes for audit

Click to play video: 'SD 67 board of trustees order audit'
SD 67 board of trustees order audit
SD 67 board of trustees order audit – Feb 25, 2020

An external audit has been ordered by the Okanagan Skaha School District’s board of trustees after it heard about the major budget deficit the district is facing.

The motion, which passed by a 4-3 vote, was brought forward by trustee Tracy Van Raes after the board heard about the district’s financial state.

“It [the audit] asks for an external person to come in and do a financial review,” said James Palanio, trustee and the board of education’s chair.
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“What that is going to entail (is) not clear yet; we are going to meet as a group and discuss that.”

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The $800,000 budget deficit is being blamed on a decrease in enrollment numbers and an increase in staffing costs.

It’s a shortfall that has many, including board members, worried about possible cuts and the impact to students.

“There is definite concerns,” said Palanio.

Around 100 people were at the meeting, including teachers, school administrators and concerned parents.

“There’s been so many cuts made already,” said Christy Tiessen, a concerned meeting attendee. “We can’t continue doing that anymore. Having an audit done is a great first step.”

Those in attendance wanted to know how the district would address the major funding shortfall.

“There is no definitive answer for where the extra money will come from,” said Nuno Monteiro, a concerned parent who was at the meeting.

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The board of trustees said the audit is the beginning of being more transparent.

“When you have a shortfall, people start to question the intentions or motives,” said Palanio.

Kevin Epp, Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president, says he’s relieved that an external audit into the financial woes will be conducted.

“A lot of folks in the school system are saying you should have someone else take a second independent look at the numbers,” Epp said.

“Make sure they are accurate, you owe that to the kids and to the public.”

Global News reached out to the school district superintendent for comment but did not receive a response.

After the audit vote, the board of trustees declined to pass the amended 2019-2020 budget.

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