Policy prohibits private use of school district vehicles

Parents group pleased with transparency of new regulation.

In the wake of last year’s District Parent Advisory report critical of the school district’s policy regarding vehicle use and expenses, School District #83 has made some changes and is introducing a new formal policy.

The policy, introduced at the board’s Tuesday night meeting, outlines regulations including the need for school district vehicles to be identified as school district property and the stipulation they not be used for private or personal purposes.

It also notes that vehicles are to be parked  on designated school sites overnight and are not to be taken home without the approval of a supervisor.

As well, administrative positions that qualify for the provision of a school district vehicle can have the option of a monthly car allowance on a personal vehicle instead, as long as the costs do not exceed the cost of using a school district-owned vehicle.

“DPAC is pleased to see clear and transparent regulations surrounding vehicle use within the school district,” says Kari Wilkinson, DPAC president.

An News report into the situation last year showed most of the vehicles used by management at the school district were not identified as school district property and also obtained information from a confidential source that vehicles were being used on weekends or after hours for personal purposes.

One of the trucks owned by the school district had an additional fifth-wheel hitch installed, even though sources said the school district owned no fifth-wheel trailers to pull.

The DPAC objected to the situation and complied a report outlying their concerns.

“F150 Platinum Ford trucks at a cost of $60,000 for management personnel are not necessary. Small commuter vehicles economical on fuel should suffice for getting staff around our district. Further, SD83 vehicles should not be available for personal use on weekends and or vacations to haul boats or trailers with,” said the DPAC report.

Vehicle use at the school district also appeared to differ from the provincial policy.

A Ministry of Finance transportation policy document available online and forwarded from the Ministry of Education outlines an extensive vehicle policy for government vehicle use.

It states: “An employee conducting government business must use the most cost-effective and appropriate mode of transportation, choosing from public transportation, use of a government, rental or private vehicle. It goes on to say, “All government vehicles, unless exempted by the ministry’s executive financial officer or designate, must display a decal according to government standards.”

There is also a section dealing with appropriate use of government vehicles stating: government vehicles must only be used for business purposes.

“Any additional personal use requires approval from the executive financial officer or designate,” states the provincial policy.

The DPAC report also suggested vehicles be equipped with GPS systems to monitor their use, although the proposed school district vehicle policy does not specify this.

In October 2015, the school district formed an internal committee to investigate the situation. At that time, the school district said the review would not be a public process, in part because some of the provisions for vehicles make up part of employees’ contracts. The review will then be brought back to an in-camera board meeting for discussion.

Since then, the public draft policy has now been released as part of the May 10 school board agenda. Trustees will discuss the draft policy at Tuesday night’s meeting, which took place after the News’ press deadline.