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school audit

By Loreth Beswetherick Members of the Myrtle Philip elementary school Parent Advisory Council are optimistic they are going to get a fair and independent review of funding and spending at the Whistler school. PAC members and school staff recently met with officials of the Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast school districts taking the first steps toward an audit. Sunshine Coast officials will serve on the audit team. The fact-finding meeting — which served to basically review budgetary figures and how cash in the district is distributed — will be followed by another in January. "It was the first go-round of the audit," PAC treasurer Gary Pringle told PAC members at their Monday, Dec. 13 meeting. Pringle said the Sunshine Coast district has operated under a site-based management system for about six years and has gone through many of the growing pains now being experienced in the Howe Sound district. School District 48 opted for site-based management, or decentralization, last year. The move was intended to give individual schools within the district more say in how their funds were managed. The switch, however, has left Myrtle Philip, the largest school in the district, with the smallest operating budget of any elementary school. Myrtle Philip needs an additional $25,000 to $30,000 to provide basic service B.C parents and students expect, like school books. School District 48 has told the school the shortfall was not a result of the new funding formula but rather an internal spending problem. This didn’t gel with school staff and parents who successfully lobbied for the audit. Parents and staff argued that Myrtle Philip has to deal with issues that other schools in the district don’t face — like rapid growth plus an influx of new students throughout the school year. Pringle said the Sunshine Coast officials are approaching the Myrtle Philip figures and issues with an open mind. He said the Sunshine Coast has similarities to Howe Sound. Schools are situated in fairly isolated communities where, if classes are maxed out at one school, new students cannot be easily sent to another. "We feel there is no pre-determined agenda," said Pringle of the audit team. "They were quite open to some of the different ways we looked at the numbers. They had some good questions... and we are looking forward to working with them." Even if Myrtle Philip does not get the extra $25,000 this time around, Pringle said he hopes some of the anomalies will be resolved and the way paved for better understanding in the future.