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LORDSTOWN SCHOOLS Auditor recommends cuts



Published: Thu, July 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Before asking for money, the district must become more fiscally responsible, the report said.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LORDSTOWN -- The school district would save about $900,000 annually by slashing 10 high school teaching positions and two service positions, requiring employees to pay a portion of their monthly insurance premiums and reducing sick and personal days.

That's according to a performance audit of the school district conducted by state Auditor Jim Petro and released this morning. The office routinely conducts performance audits of districts in fiscal emergency.

"It will be a useful tool in helping us to move ahead," said Superintendent Ray Getz.

Petro's office placed the district in emergency status last December, citing a projected $1.3 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year.

The district's status "is due in part to a lack of accurate financial forecasting and historical spending patterns that exceed available revenues," the report states.

It also points to an $860,000 overpayment in state funds the district received and spent last year.

The audit focuses on financial systems, human resources, facilities and transportation. It cites efforts already made by the board and the state commission overseeing spending to cut costs.

Lordstown's staffing levels exceed those of similar districts like McDonald, Weathersfield and Minster with an 18-to-1 pupil-teacher ratio at the elementary school and a 10-to-1 at the high school. The state minimum ratio is 25-to-1.

Staffing levels also are high in educational service personnel, clerical and custodial personnel.

Expenditures high: The audit also points out that Lordstown's per-pupil expenditures exceed revenues. The district exceeded the state average in most expenditure categories. Compared with similar districts, Lordstown receives more revenues and incurs more expenditures.

"These data clearly show that the district's financial situation is not due to a lack of revenue, but rather is due to the manner in which revenues are managed," the report states.

"Before asking the community for additional tax dollars, it must become more fiscally responsible for the dollars currently being received."

Voters defeated a levy request in May, and the school board and commission are expected to try again in November.

Reductions recommended: The report recommends consolidation of classes with low enrollment and reducing overall staffing levels. Fourteen or fewer pupils are enrolled in 73 percent of its high school classes.

Cutting 10 full-time high school teaching positions would save up to $523,400, according to the report. Reducing by three the education service personnel, which includes librarians, would save about $149,000 annually.

Compared with similar districts, Lordstown had the highest monthly medical premium costs in fiscal 1999-2000 and the highest annual insurance cost per employee.

The district recently implemented a new insurance plan, requiring employees to pay a co-payment for office visits and prescription coverage. The changes are expected to save about $165,000 annually, beginning this fiscal year.

The audit recommends the district implement a graduated scale of benefits requiring employees to pay a portion of the monthly insurance premiums based on the hours worked. That would save between $93,000 and $185,000 annually.

Lordstown has spent more than twice that of similar districts on substitute services.

Use of substitutes: Substitutes are used by Lordstown an average of 16 days each year. The average of similar districts is 11 days.

By reducing the number of personal days and increasing efforts to reduce the number of sick leave days taken by all employees the district would save an additional $47,500, the report states.

Closing classrooms: In the facilities category, the report recommends closing at least six high school classrooms, reducing the need for cleaning staff and lowering utility costs.

The high school operates at 49 percent capacity with the Gordon D. James Career Center operating at 32 percent capacity.

Closing classrooms and reducing one custodial position would save about $97,200 annually.

The audit also recommended eliminating the transportation coordinator position, which the board and oversight commission already have done.

dick@vindy.com




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