By Loreth Beswetherick
It was supposed to be wrapped up last month but the Howe Sound School district should have the written results of a Myrtle Philip community school funding audit in hand within the next few weeks.
Timing is tight because the district needs to prepare its budget for the 2000/2001 school year and any anomalies identified in the Myrtle Philip audit may have to be accounted for in the district budget process. A little leeway has, however, been granted. Howe Sound superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick said the province is late this year in getting the figures necessary to prepare the budgets to the school districts. The districts in turn have been granted an extra month to get their budgets ready.
Fitzpatrick said any adjustments to the funding formula that may be needed as a result of the Whistler elementary audit will affect the entire Howe Sound school system. "It wouldn’t just affect Myrtle Philip."
The audit is being conducted by the assistant superintendent and the secretary-treasurer of the Sunshine Coast school district. Fitzpatrick said heavy CUPE negotiations on the Sunshine Coast resulted in a delay in the audit process. A recent break in talks, however, freed up the Sunshine Coast team to visit Myrtle Philip and principal Bob Daly last Friday.
"I would expect we would get something in writing in another week or so," said Fitzpatrick.
The Myrtle Philip audit was spurred by a Parent Advisory Council lobby to redress what appear to be funding formula inequities that left Myrtle Philip — the largest elementary school in the district — with the smallest operating budget when the district moved to a site-based management system.
Myrtle Philip still needs an additional $25,000 to $30,000 for the 1999-2000 school year to fund the basic service expected by B.C parents, like school books. The school is already moving into gear to start preparing next year’s budget.
The intent of the audit is to discover if the district funding formula doesn’t work for a large and growing school like Myrtle Philip or whether the school itself has an internal spending problem, as suggested last year by Fitzpatrick.
Both Daly and PAC treasurer Gary Pringle told PAC members last week they were optimistic the school would receive a fair and independent review of its funding and spending.
"They are good listeners," said Daly of the audit team. "I felt they had a good understanding of the issues... and I was quite candid with them about my experiences." He said it would be presumptuous for the district to discuss any changes to the funding formula prior to receiving the results of the audit.
The Sunshine Coast district has operated under a site-based management system for about six years and has gone through many of the growing pains now being experienced by the Howe Sound district.
School District 48 opted for the decentralized system in 1998. The move was intended to give individual schools within the district more say in how their operating budgets were managed.