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MISSION, B.C. School District 75s board of trustees should open its books and let the public see how changes will affect children in the district next year, say local and provincial CUPE leaders in revealing budget irregularities.

Last year the preliminary budget was an absolute disaster, said Al Wutzke, CUPE Local 593 president. Twenty-four CUPE special education assistants, library aids and custodians were laid off because of projected budget cuts. But this year the budget went up by $2.3 million.

CUPE commissioned an analysis of Missions budgets for the past two years and found that last years preliminary budget raised many doubts about the care, accuracy and accountability of this school district.

CUPEs analysis notes that enrolment figures were to go down when in fact they increased by 163 children. About $561,830 was added to the budget from home learners and the apprenticeship programs alone.

How can we trust the district when we do not get the straight goods in the first place? asked Wutzke. This school district needs a budgeting process that is transparent so everyone can have input into changes being made that are critical to our children.

The board has refused to hear CUPEs presentation on Missions school budgets over the past two years. It has agreed only to allow Wutzke to make a statement or ask a question after the budget discussion tonight.

Why are these school trustees so afraid of public scrutiny? asked Bill Harper, CUPE national representative. Why not allow full public input into the way funds are being spent on the educational services our children deserve?

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EDITORS NOTE: Al Wutzke and Bill Harper will be available for comment on the school budget process on Tuesday, May 29 at the school board meeting.

Contact: Al Wutzke, CUPE Local 593 President, (604) 302-1749; Bill Harper, CUPE National Representative, (604) 341-4869.