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Fiscal panel begins work to rescue Liberty schools



Published: Fri, August 5, 2011 @ 12:08 a.m.

By Robert Guttersohn

rguttersohn@vindy.com

Liberty

The Ohio Department of Education on Thursday introduced the fiscal commission charged with guiding the Liberty school district out of fiscal emergency.

The state placed the district under fiscal emergency July 11 after it failed to come up with a plan to close its deficit.

The commission comprises three local representatives and two designees from the state.

“Is [being in fiscal emergency] the end of the world? No it’s not,” said ODE Director of Financial Services Roger Hardin at the meeting. “Will it require changes? Yes it will.”

The commission’s chairman, Roger Nehls, designated by state Superintendent Stan Heffner, described the process as a “three-legged stool.”

First, he said the commission will determine the “size and nature” of the district’s fiscal problems.

Second, it will examine daily operations to see where savings can be had. After that, the commission will examine what deficit remains and explore options for increasing revenue or state aid.

He said the process of a district’s coming out of fiscal emergency normally takes about three to four years.

Liberty is the 36th school district to be placed under fiscal emergency since the process was made law in 1996. Since then, 28 districts have moved out of the designation.

“The process we have in place does work,” Hardin said. “The more cooperation there is, the less time you’ll spend in fiscal emergency.”

The commission has the power to “assume the powers of the school board” and to “make changes to the collective-bargaining agreement” only for financial reasons, according to Hardin.

The commission can remove the superintendent and treasurer if they are not “forthcoming” with information.

“My philosophy has always been to be the least invasive as possible going into a school district as long we’re continuing to move toward the target collectively,” said Nehls, who has led eight fiscal commissions in Ohio. The commission would “become more engaged and more controlling when it doesn’t appear that everyone is pulling together.”

He said friction between school districts and fiscal commissions stems from blame and denial from the district.

Board of Education President Diana Devito said the board already has moved past denial and blame.

“The board is in the recovery stage already,” she said but repeated that cutting costs is not the only solution.

In the past, the board has said the community will not support a levy. But she hopes now that if the three other locals on the fiscal commission say the district needs a levy, the community will support one.

“I hope this will add credibility to our efforts.”

The board includes Kristen Rock, a Liberty parent appointed by state superintendent; William Reali, local accountant appointed by the county auditor; and Patrick Ungaro, Liberty Township administrator appointed by the governor. Sharon Hanrahan, representative of the state Office of Budget and Management, is the fifth person on the panel.

The commission will meet in the high school’s community room Aug. 31 and Sept. 14, both at 11 a.m. The sessions are open to the public.


Comments

1fcb(320 comments)posted 3 years ago

Get ready Liberty residents,here comes yet another levy try!

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2dbarb(2 comments)posted 3 years ago

Well they can try to pass another levy but it will be stuffed down like the last 2, we pay the highest taxes in this area and you hate to see anyone lose their jobs, the schools have to many people standing around, to many assistants, principals, asst principals, deans of students and there are not alot of kids in this district. We cant even get roads paved in this city, they do patch jobs, so where does any of our money go?????

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3db(280 comments)posted 3 years ago

Is it better to pay teachers & school employees to retire with pay while in middle age plus have to pay their replacements or is it better to run out of money and bankrupt the school system trying to pay them? Just another example of why Ohio desperately needs to keep SB5. WORK TO RETIREMENT AGE (65) BEFORE RECEIVING RETIREMENT PAY.

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4sewingnut(33 comments)posted 3 years ago

How about the double dippers? If you want to retire, do so. It is about time we hire some of our best and brightest graduating. Let them get their careers started and bring new and innovative teaching to Liberty Schools.

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