‘Governments can only fund so much’

By Riverine Herald

THE Victorian School Building Authority boss has defended the government’s decision to not fund the Echuca Specialist School in the state budget.

Authority chief executive Chris Keating said the school was in poor condition and a ‘‘priority’’ for the government.

‘‘I understand the specialist school and the broader community are really devastated the specialist school hasn’t had the funding in this budget,’’ he said.

‘‘I suppose from a broader perspective whilst this was a very big investment in the state budget ... there are a number of schools that are very disappointed and feel that they missed out.

‘‘Echuca is clearly one of those.’’

Mr Keating said it was a high priority but the project needed funding.

‘‘I also know the (Education) Minister (James Merlino) is committed to it, he said in Parliament that his government will see this through,’’ he said.

Mr Keating said a plumber was at the school yesterday completing a ‘‘detailed assessment’’ of the sewerage system.

‘‘I know the school has raised concern about the effluent treatment, particularly the waste water and sewerage,’’ he said.

‘‘We spoke to the (school) principal on Friday to understand what was going on and since then we’ve also spoke to Vivid (formerly known as Murray Human Services) to really understand what’s going on with the system.

‘‘A plumber was out there today (yesterday) and is going to provide a detailed assessment of what the problem is.

‘‘Once we understand what the problem is the department will fix the problem with the sewerage.’’

Mr Keating said one of the school’s problem was when the school was opened, it only had about 10 students and now could not cope with the demand.

‘‘Clearly the best solution for the school is to get the project funded and relocated onto the new premises but in the meantime making sure it is an appropriate environment for the kids and staff,’’ he said.

‘‘The department knows this is a high priority, we know this needs to get done.

‘‘We acknowledge the long-term solution is getting this great project developed ... we understand the community is disappointed ... whether one school’s need is higher than the other is where it gets hard.

‘‘Is it fair? At some point governments can only fund so much.’’

When asked whether he would be willing to come to the school to see the conditions in person, Mr Keating said he would.

‘‘I was there in about 2010 ... I would be happy to go out again,’’ he said.

‘‘In any given budget not every school will get funded and unfortunately this one missed out but it doesn’t make it any less of a priority.’’