03/07/2012 09:38 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Strapped Vancouver School Board could save $16M

An external audit of the Vancouver School Board's financial records reveals $16 million in potential savings, an accounting firm says.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was hired by the financially strapped school board last year to conduct a review of the books, with an eye to possible savings.

The VSB is projecting an $8 million budget shortfall for the coming year.

Among the auditor's suggestions were cutting cafeteria programs; charging students who want to take advanced placement classes; and creating a system to negotiate better textbook prices.

Company spokeswoman Winky Whalen said the textbook system alone could save the VSB more than $4 million a year.

“It's really because sometimes you are so decentralized,” Whalen told reporters Wednesday night. “People just react to purchasing what they need and don't think about the fact that they should be going through central purchasing.”

But Trustee Cherie Payne said the board would have to study the report carefully.

“What's good on paper isn't always what's best in terms of the learning environment for our students and the expectations of our stakeholders. So we'll be going through the report,” Payne said.

In 2010, the province's comptroller general reviewed the VSB's spending and issued a damning report, blaming poor governance, a lack of strategic planning, and missed opportunities for the board’s financial situation.

The school board's budget is due at the end of April.