British Columbia

VSB votes against proposed budget

The Vancouver School Board has voted against a budget tonight that includes $24 million in cuts to programs, services, and staff.

Trustees voted tonight on whether to approve a balanced budget which would see $24M in cuts

Vancouver School Board trustees voted on a proposed budget for the upcoming school year on Thursday night. (CBC)

The Vancouver School Board voted against a budget Thursday night that includes $24 million in cuts to programs, services, and staff. 

The vote puts the future of the board in question, as the province requires a balanced budget and could call for their dismissal. 

"I didn't run for office to be afraid of that threat, I ran for office to stand up," said Vision Vancouver trustee and former board chair Patti Bacchus. 

The budget was defeated 5-4. The board is evenly divided between Vision Vancouver and NPA trustees. 

The four Vision Vancouver trustees have committed to vote against the budget, and lone Green Party trustee Janet Fraser who holds the balance on the board voted against it. 

"If we do vote to balance the budget, it will have a direct impact on the students in our district," said Fraser, who received a standing ovation at the meeting. 

The cuts would have impacted special education, the elementary band and strings program and would have meant doing away with more than 200 jobs to make up for the largest budget shortfall the board has ever faced. 

NPA trustee Christopher Richardson supported the budget, saying "I believe that's the responsibility we took on."

Balanced budget required by law

By law, the provincial government requires the budget to be balanced.

"I'm disappointed in the failure of the Vancouver school board to deliver a balanced budget despite the efforts of some trustees," Education Minister Mike Bernier said in a written statement released after the vote on Thursday. 

"The board still has the chance to make a decision in the best interest of students before the June 30 deadline to deliver its balanced final budget."

Earlier on Thursday, Education Minister Mike Bernier said he would be left with limited options if the budget didn't go through.

Some of those options include dismissing the entire board and bringing in someone else to run it, or hiring an advisor to work with the board to find ways to balance the books.

"Right now there is $37 million a year in Vancouver that should be going to essential classroom services that past boards have instead chosen to invest in heating and maintaining empty spaces in classrooms," he said.

"Today's failure continues this sad trend in Vancouver."

School Board trustees recently voted unanimously in favour of potentially closing as many as 13 schools in exchange for overdue seismic upgrades

The province's requirements outlined in its seismic mitigation plan include an expectation that Vancouver schools must be filled to 95 per cent capacity before upgrades would be considered. 

With files from Brenna Rose


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