03/12/2015 06:54 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Adviser appointed to review budget of cash-strapped Vancouver Board of Education

VICTORIA - British Columbia's education minister has appointed a special adviser to review the finances of Vancouver's school board after learning about an anticipated $15-million deficit.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the Vancouver Board of Education informed the government about its projected deficit last month and that an independent audit of its finances is needed.

Fassbender said the adviser will work with the new chairman of the board, the superintendent and trustees to come up with ways to find savings in the budget.

"I believe it's achievable, but it's not something that is without challenges," he said, adding the adviser may make some recommendations.

"The interim report will come to the minister and the Vancouver School Board. We will review that with the independent auditor and then the decisions that follow that will unfold."

The government's decision to work with the board will potentially avoid "the blame game" by parents concerned about cuts to education programs, Fassbender said.

The government says that over the past two decades, the Vancouver board has forecast large deficits but has consistently ended the school year with a surplus.

"As of June 30, 2014, they held an accumulated surplus of $28.4 million, which is equivalent to six per cent of total district expenditures," the Education Ministry said in a statement.

In July 2012, the former education minister fired the entire board in the Cowichan Valley for refusing to balance the budget, but Fassbender says he'd rather save that step as a last resort.

Boards of education are required to submit a balanced budget to the government by June 30.