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School district budget errors must be disclosed: teachers' group

An independent report looking into how the Langley School District’s budget projections went from a modest surplus to an almost $5-million deficit must be made public, says the group representing the district’s teachers.

“We’re calling for a full public financial disclosure of the audit,” said Susan Fonseca, president of the Langley Teachers’ Association.

Independent accounting firm Deloitte was asked by the Langley school board to conduct an investigation into how the 2008/2009 budget projections went from a $264,000 surplus in February to an estimated $4.8-million deficit announced on June 16. The board is expected to receive the report next month.

An initial briefing from Deloitte confirmed findings of the board's own internal analysis, which concluded that incorrect expenditure forecasts and accounting errors occured.

The teachers' association is demanding to know how much of the deficit was due to accounting error and what consequences board staff will face.

“We still have way more questions than answers,” said Fonseca.

The board has not yet committed to releasing the full report to the public.

“That is our intent but we haven’t as a total board made that decision at this point,” said board vice-chair Wendy Johnson.

Full disclosure was planned when the audit was requested, she said, adding she will push for this no matter what the report ultimately concludes.

“It’s important that this information comes to light,” she said. “This is the public’s money and they have the right to know.”

School boards are not allowed to run deficits and it is assumed the district will be responsible for making up the $4.8-million shortfall in future budgets, starting with this upcoming year.

“We have put in a plan for next year to deal with a portion of the shortfall,” said Johnson.

“In my mind it’s going to take us several years to pay this back and sort this out.”

Decisions about possible cuts or new revenue sources will be made after the board receives the report, she said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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