06/12/2014 12:59 EDT | Updated 08/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan auditor asked by province to review French school board's books

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government wants the province's auditor to take a look at the books of the French-language school board because of money problems.

Education Minister Don Morgan says he's concerned about the financial position of the Conseil scolaire fransaskois, which said earlier this month that it might not be able to pay teachers on time.

"The idea of paying a teacher late or not at all is something that's not acceptable," Morgan said in an interview Thursday.

"These are people that work hard. We give them our children with the idea that they will provide and educate them. They should not have to worry about whether they will have money for groceries or their own mortgage payments, so we will make sure that they get paid."

The auditor would review the board's governance and financial management.

President Andre Denis says the board was audited by the province in 2012-2013. He says if the provincial auditor accepts the mandate to review the books again, the board will fully co-operate.

"The CSF has undertaken concrete actions to stabilize the (board's) financial situation and to achieve a balanced budget in 2014-2015," said Denis.

"As with the ministry, the Conseil will await provincial auditor's recommendations following her assessment of the (board's) financial situation."

The board says it has already cut administrative jobs, reduced training and put pre-kindergarten for three-year-olds on hold in schools where there was an extra cost to staff the program to help address a $4.4-million shortfall.

Morgan said the French-language school board is challenged by having small classrooms in some remote areas, so it doesn't have the economies of scale.

Provincial funding to the board went to $31.4 million this year from $28 million last year, he said. The board gets $19,831 in funding per student — which is higher than the $10,981 public and Catholic boards get per student.

Morgan said the ministry will stay involved to ensure the board is able to manage its finances appropriately and operate within its annual budget.

"They've indicated that they've identified several million dollars worth of cuts that they feel that they can make. They've got some new people on the board that are working to try and identify cost savings.

"We hope that they work with the provincial auditor to make sure that they're able to provide the necessary services that they're expected to do, but find savings wherever they can," said Morgan.

"It would be beyond a bookkeeping audit. It would be an audit with a review to identifying how they can most effectively and efficiently operate the school division."

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