03/20/2015 04:01 EDT | Updated 05/20/2015 05:59 EDT

Education minister says second audit of Vancouver schools budget will continue

VICTORIA - Education Minister Peter Fassbender says budget disputes between the Vancouver School Board and his ministry must end.

Fassbender said Friday that a special adviser he appointed last week will still conduct an audit of the board's finances despite the board's own review of its finances.

The minister said he wants a broad look at the board's operations to determine why it consistently forecasts a deficit budget but ends the year with a surplus, which last June had added up to $28 million.

Fassbender said he's using powers under the School Act to direct the board to work with a special adviser to find budget savings before June 15.

The minister said his decision to appoint Kevin Brennan is not punitive but the Vancouver board appears unable or unwilling to balance its books.

In a statement, the Education Ministry said the Vancouver school board's surplus has been growing by about $5 million a year.

"In the 2010-11 school year, the VSB projected an $18.1-million shortfall, which it said would force it to lay off dozens of staff, close at least one school and cut up to 10 days from the school year," the ministry said.

However, the board ended the year with an accumulated operating budget of $12.8 million, prompting a review by the comptroller general, it said.

"The comptroller general's report confirmed the VSB to be in a strong cash position with a substantial accumulated surplus."

Vancouver School Board chairman Christopher Richardson said the two reviews will help the board deal with its current and long-term budget issues.