Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria board may have to ab­sorb some P3 school costs

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY TOM AY­ERS

SYD­NEY — The Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board is in the process of re­cov­er­ing $403,000 from the de­vel­oper of pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship schools in its ju­ris­dic­tion, but the fund­ing short­fall that led to a $21,000 deficit over the last two years could con­tinue.

Ge­orge Boudreau, the school board’s di­rec­tor of fi­nance, said Mon­day the $403,000 should be re­cov­ered by the end of the fis­cal year in March. He also said se­nior staff will rec­om­mend the board try to col­lect in­ter­est on the out­stand­ing money.

The short­fall re­sulted from what Boudreau called weak con­tract word­ing that Cape Bre­tonVic­to­ria board of­fi­cials caught ear­lier and were work­ing on when the pro­vin­cial au­di­tor gen­eral high­lighted the prob­lem in his re­port last week.

Un­der the P3 ar­range­ment with 39 schools in Nova Sco­tia — in­clud­ing six in the Cape Bre­tonVic­to­ria re­gion and seven in the Strait board’s ju­ris­dic­tion — the de­vel­op­ers of P3 schools charge the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion for the cost of staffing, main­te­nance, clean­ing and sup­plies, among other things. The 20-year con­tracts have an­other eight years to run.

In some cases, in­clud­ing the P3 schools on Cape Bre­ton Is­land, school boards sub­con­tract some ser­vices to the de­vel­oper us­ing board em­ploy­ees.

Boudreau said the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria board’s short­fall re­sulted from staff not re­al­iz­ing an es­ca­la­tor clause in the sub­con­tract al­lows school boards to re­cover cost-of-liv­ing in­creases in var­i­ous cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing salaries and elec­tric­ity costs.

How­ever, he said, the sub­con­tracts, ne­go­ti­ated in 1998 be­tween school boards and the de­vel­oper, don’t in­clude es­ca­la­tor clauses for some items such as snow clear­ing, garbage re­moval, in­sur­ance on build­ings, and main­te­nance and clean­ing sup­plies. The in­creased cost of those items is roughly equal to the deficit in­curred in the last two years, Boudreau added.

Staff is await­ing fur­ther clar­ifi- cation from the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, he said, and al­though it’s pos­si­ble the board will con­tinue to in­cur un­re­cov­er­able costs dur­ing the re­main­der of the con­tracts, he added it will be some time be­fore the full de­tails be­come clear.

“ There are a cou­ple of things” the board will have to con­sider, in­clud­ing in­ter­est on the $ 403,000 and cost-of-liv­ing in­creases in var­i­ous cat­e­gories, said Boudreau, “ but ob­vi­ously we need to fully di­gest this re­port and dis­cuss it with the board be­fore we can take a stance on it.”

Steve Wad­den - Cape Bre­ton Post

Stu­dents leave Sher­wood Park Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre in Syd­ney, a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship school (P3), at the end of a school day. The Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board says its agree­ment with the de­vel­oper of six P3 schools in the re­gion has led to a deficit of about $21,000 over the last two years.

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