Beaver schools’ plan is rejected by state

By Rick Rouan

The district has until Jan. 10 to submit a revised plan.

LISBON — The Ohio Department of Education has rejected a plan by the Beaver Local School District to pull the financially strapped district out of fiscal watch.

In a letter to Superintendent Dr. Sandra DiBacco, the state wrote the plan is “based on reductions that require negotiations with the district professional and classified associations, which have not yet happened,” and that “the plan as submitted is not acceptable at this time.”

The district has until Jan. 10 to submit a revised plan to erase potential deficits or pass a resolution declaring that it cannot submit an acceptable plan, according to the letter.

If the district tells the state that it cannot come up with an acceptable plan, Auditor of State Mary Taylor would declare the district in fiscal emergency and a financial planning and supervision commission would be put in place, said Julie Daubenmire, assistant press secretary for the Ohio Department of Education.

If that happened, DiBacco said that heavy cuts are likely.

In September, Taylor placed the district in fiscal watch because it faces a $555,000 deficit this year, and a 2010 deficit of $819,000.

The district’s performance review by Taylor’s office cited several areas where the district could make cuts, including staffing, but the district’s plan centered on cuts to health-insurance benefits.

“We’re working with the unions to try to get them to make some accommodations with the insurance,” DiBacco said Wednesday.

She said the district’s plan is “lucrative,” covering 100 percent of costs.

Under the revised plan, though, DiBacco said that the insurance would cover about 90 percent.

Cuts to health insurance would save the district more than $450,000, DiBacco said.

But the state’s letter to the district said it would not accept such a plan before those cuts are negotiated with the school’s teacher and classified unions.

The district will have about a week to finish negotiations after Christmas break, DiBacco said, before it has to report to the state again Jan. 10.

“If we go into fiscal emergency, they’re going to make us make reductions,” DiBacco said. “It would be dramatic reductions, and we’re trying to salvage the educational program.”

Taylor’s office suggested cutting 4.5 full-time employees on the education side and 4 full-time workers from the district’s custodial staff, among other reductions.

Making all of the recommended cuts could save the district about $938,000, according to the auditor’s report.

DiBacco said cuts to insurance benefits alone would help the district become fiscally solvent.

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