A School District 83 trustee expressed concern regarding how employee and trustee expenses are reported during a review of the statement of financial information for the district’s fiscal year end. (File photo)

A School District 83 trustee expressed concern regarding how employee and trustee expenses are reported during a review of the statement of financial information for the district’s fiscal year end. (File photo)

Transparency concern raised over North Okanagan-Shuswap school district expenses

Employee and trustee expenses total more than $370,000 for fiscal year

A trustee with the North Okanagan-Shuswap school board wants to see greater transparency when it comes to reporting school district staff expenses.

At its Nov. 18 meeting, the board reviewed the statement of financial information (SOFI) for School District 83’s fiscal year end (June 30, 2020).

The SOFI includes remuneration figures (salaries, taxable benefits) for district employees as well as expenses claimed by district employees.

Trustee and employee expenses for the year amounted to $371,224.89.

The SOFI shows the following district employees claimed expenses exceeding $10,000: Superintendent Peter Jory, $27,669; District Principal Robert MacAulay, $19,862; Director of Instruction – Human Resources and Assistant Superintendent Ryan Brennan, $13,658; Secretary-Treasurer Alanna Cameron, $10,845.

The SOFI notes expenses for trustees may include mileage to and from board and committee meetings and liaison schools, a portion of phone and internet costs and computer costs related to board business, training, travel and accommodation.

Employee expenses can include travel, professional development, relocation expenses and association memberships.

Focused on the $371,224, Marty Gibbons, trustee for Electoral Area 3 (Columbia Shuswap Regional District Areas C & F), expressed his discomfort with what he viewed as a lack of transparency in how that money was spent.

Read more: North Okanagan-Shuswap trustees remain status quo on pay increase

Read more: North Okanagan-Shuswap school district faces $2 million deficit

“I strongly believe we, as a board, should have better transparency on this $370,000 and clear board policy on what’s acceptable… I’m not making accusations that any wrongdoing is going on. But I’m being very clear, I want it documented in the minutes, I am concerned because I cannot see the transparency…

“I think it’s important I have reassurance… these funds are being spent appropriately and I just can’t see that.”

Jory said this concern was raised last year, and that he welcomed a “review of our spending habits, a comparison of our team and previous teams and other teams in similar size district.”

“I think the patterns that have been established over the past four years are not just ethical but bordering on cheap,” commented Jory.

Quentin Bruns, trustee for Electoral Area 2 (City of Enderby/Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area E/District of Sicamous/Regional District for the North Okanagan Area F), questioned the value of being provided that level of detail and “expecting we’ll draw something meaningful out of it as lay people.”

Salmon Arm Trustee and board Chairperson Amanda Krebs supported Gibbons, responding more transparency would be beneficial and that it’s “our fiscal responsibility to do that.”

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