FARRELL SCHOOLS Budget report in the black

The school district ended the year in the black for the first time in five years.
FARRELL, Pa. -- Hearing the annual auditor's report on district finances hasn't been a pleasant event for Farrell Area School Board members in recent years.
The district has been running substantial deficits each year and was rapidly whittling away its fund balance to cover the red ink.
That all changed Monday when auditors from Libeg, Gargano, Bell and Associates of Hermitage came to the board meeting with some good news.
Farrell ended fiscal 2001-02 with a $288,672 surplus in its general fund budget of $11.3 million, said Thomas Libeg.
That's more than a $560,000 financial turnaround from the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001, he said, noting Farrell ended that year $270,607 in the hole on a general fund budget of $10.3 million.
Farrell had also experienced a $270,000 deficit at the end of fiscal 1999-2000 and had reached a high deficit of $700,000 at the end of fiscal 1998-99.
Libeg said the 2001-02 budget was $938,000 higher than the previous year but most of that was attributable to increases in state and federal funding as well as some additional local tax revenue.
How things improved
The district's fund balance stood at $2 million in fiscal 1997-98 but the school board has repeatedly tapped that account to balance each year's budget until there was only $365,000 left at the end of fiscal 2000-01.
Libeg said the fund grew because of the 2001-02 budget surplus and now stands at $657,146.
That's up 80 percent, he said, calling the improvement "really a significant number" and praising the school administration and board for their efforts to control spending.
That's good news, said school director James Guerino, noting that there was talk of possible bankruptcy for the district just a couple of years ago.
Farrell is still ranked as one of seven distressed school districts in the state.
"I'm very gratified that we stopped draining the fund balance," said Superintendent Richard Rubano, who has spearheaded the effort to cut spending and erase the budget deficit.
Rubano said he would like the fund balance to be at least $1 million.
"We're not out of the woods but we're light years ahead of where we started," said school director Jerome Flint, referring to the deficits the district had been running each year.
He praised Rubano for his leadership skills in turning the financial picture around and added that the school board can take some credit for the improvement as well.
"We've done a great job here," added school director Larry Manilla. "It's good to see some positive numbers."

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