STATE AUDIT Sebring schools trying to cut costs

The superintendent says the recommendations are being implemented.
COLUMBUS -- State Auditor Betty Montgomery has issued recommendations that, if implemented, could result in savings of more than $768,000 per year for the Sebring Local School District.
"Sebring schools officials have proactively taken a number of steps to improve their financial condition, and it is our hope the recommendations in today's audit provide a roadmap for the district to regain fiscal stability," she said in a statement Tuesday.
The recommendations include seeking reduction of up to four full-time regular teaching positions and three full-time education service personnel, and negotiating a greater contribution toward employee health-care costs.
They are part of a performance audit initiated after the Ohio Department of Education placed the district in fiscal caution last Oct. 31 because of the possibility of ending fiscal year 2003-04 in a deficit, and the potential for deficits in future years.
Subsequently, Montgomery's office placed the district in fiscal watch Feb. 12 after the district had failed to submit a written proposal to the Ohio Department of Education to correct forecasted deficits.
What's being done
Sebring Superintendent Howard Friend said the district has begun to implement and will continue to implement many of these recommendations.
"We as a school district must look at each recommendation and evaluate it on the basis of how it affects our students," he said.
"All of our decisions are based on what is best for the students in the Sebring Local School District, keeping in mind our fiscal responsibility to our local taxpayers."
The performance audit assessed the district's financial systems, human resources, facilities and transportation functions. It also highlighted several steps the district has taken to address its financial condition, including:
UTaking steps to decrease expenditures and increase revenues by maintaining tight controls over discretionary expenditures and adjusting various fees, including cafeteria prices.
UDecreasing the district's overall energy costs by installing an HVAC system.
UTransporting the highest number of students per bus driver when compared to peer districts.
The recommendations made in a performance audit are not mandatory, but officials say they provide a roadmap to financial recovery.

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