After a months-long standoff that put Vancouver School Board trustees at risk of being fired, the board says it will meet on Monday to pass a balanced budget, as required by law.
The board refused to pass a proposed budget in April, saying the cuts it contained were too deep. The move was largely symbolic, because staff implemented the cuts, amounting to about $20-million, as the school year began in September.
The budget for the year calls for about $500-million in spending.
The board says it is prepared to support the 2016-2017 budget, even though it still believes more funding for education is required, after Education Minister Mike Bernier announced that money for seismic upgrades to school buildings is not linked to targets for capacity use.
“We stood with our parents and stakeholders and said that funding was inadequate – I think we made the point in a big way, but now we want to get on with funding our seismic upgrades,” VSB chair Mike Lombardi said on Friday.
“And the minister has said a budget is required to do that, so we will oblige by putting it on as a vote Monday.”
The budget had been defeated when four trustees affiliated with the municipal Vision Party and the sole Green Party trustee on the nine-member board voted against it. Boards can be fired if they do not pass balanced budgets.
In July, the province appointed a special adviser, Peter Milburn, to conduct a forensic audit and full review of the Vancouver board.
Mr. Bernier was not immediately available to comment, but his office sent a statement attributed to him about the latest move in the long-running dispute.
“This is yet another political tactic from the Vision members of the VSB,” the statement said.
“The fact is they failed to comply with the School Act by failing to present a balanced budget by June 30. The current posture of the Board inspires no confidence coming at the last minute before the Special Advisor tables his report,” the statement added.
That report was to have been delivered by Sept. 30, but the deadline was extended to later this month.
In September, Mr. Bernier said the province would get rid of district-wide targets for capacity use, a measure of how much classroom space in a school is being used. Under a 2014 deal between the province and the VSB, the board had agreed to work toward a 95 per cent capacity rate in exchange for ensuring needed seismic upgrades went ahead.
To get to that target, the VSB had to consider closing schools, and had come up with a list of 11 that could be closed.
After Mr. Bernier announced the province would scrap utilization targets, the VSB put the school closings on hold.
Under a province-wide seismic mitigation program, upgrades to make buildings safer if an earthquake strikes have been done or are in progress at 224 schools.
Another 118 still require upgrades.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the budget had been defeated by five trustees affiliated with the municipal Vision Party.