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Struthers considers finances



Published: Wed, June 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Open enrollment could give the district a financial boost.

By SEAN BARRON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

STRUTHERS -- As Struthers Board of Education members and a state commission try to come up with ways to bring the district back to fiscal solvency, several residents wanted to know what the fiscal emergency status will mean when school reconvenes in the fall.

About 20 to 25 people attended Tuesday's board meeting. During the open portion, some wanted to know how the financial shortfall would impact classes, sports and other programs next school year.

Board President Matthew Rhoads told the audience that no classes or programs have been cut so far. In addition, the board has no plans to implement a pay-to-play policy with regard to sports, he added.

"We're moving forward as normal for now," Rhoads said.

The board approved $4.93 million for temporary appropriations for the 2005-06 fiscal year. The money will allow the district to continue operating for about 90 days, a window needed before the passage of a final budget, Treasurer Michael Evanson said.

Rhoads explained that the move will allow the district to continue paying employees' salaries over the summer. Salaries and benefits make up 80 percent to 85 percent of the district's budget, he noted.

Rhoads added that board members wanted to appropriate a portion of the district's annual budget, which is around $16 million -- as opposed to the entire budget -- because the commission could make various changes.

State of emergency

On Monday, the Columbus-based State Controlling Board OK'd releasing a $1.9 million loan to help the district get through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. That money will go toward general fund operations and is one step in a process designed to help the district deal with its financial difficulties. It will have to be paid back over the next two years.

Open enrollment also will add state money to the schools. So far, 100 additional pupils will be attending Struthers schools as a result; each pupil brings to the district about $5,500, Evanson said.

The auditor's final report for the district could be completed in two to three weeks, Superintendent Sandra DiBacco predicted.

In May, the fiscal emergency status was declared when the district faced a $1.9 million deficit. A five-member commission was appointed to make financial and other decisions and to help come up with a recovery plan to get the district out of its deficit.

Three of the commission members are from the local community. The remaining two were appointed by the state.

In other business, DiBacco said that solicitations are under way for donations and volunteers for a Struthers Veterans Memorial near Euclid Avenue and Morrison Street. People will be able to buy bricks for a walkway, and the items can be used to honor a veteran, living or dead, she added.




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