New commission comes together

STRUTHERS -- Struthers City Schools took another step in what could be a long road to financial solvency Thursday, when the newly formed Financial Planning and Supervision Commission met with district officials.
The district has been in state-declared fiscal emergency since mid-May, just after voters turned down an 8-mill levy.
Fiscal emergency is the most severe designation a school district faces in regard to its finances. When it's declared, the state auditor's office appoints a Financial Planning and Supervision Commission that works to create a recovery plan.
Struthers must have its recovery plan complete by Sept. 28, but commission chairman Joseph Funai said he hopes the plan will come together sooner.
"That's too far out there," said Funai, who works for the Ohio Department of Education. "I'd rather get it done quickly than wait for that deadline."
Hard work ahead
Struthers officials face some "pretty intense" work to pull the plan together, Funai said.
He wouldn't hazard a guess as to how long Struthers might have to operate under the fiscal emergency designation.
"There's really no way of knowing," Funai said. "We have one district that came out in about a year and one that's been in for six years. What we're looking for is their ability to pay the bills."
The commission includes Funai, as well as a representative from the Ohio Department of Budget and Management and three community representatives. Funai serves as commission chairman; the commission elected Struthers resident Deborah Elias as commission vice chair on Thursday.
Being in fiscal emergency is a "disruptive process" but it helps the district, Funai said.
"It helps restore the integrity of the district," said Funai.
The commission meets next at 10 a.m. July 13.

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