Liberty schools has positive financial future

By danny restivo


School officials said they are “cautiously optimistic” about the district’s financial future.

Superintendent Stan Watson said a projected deficit of $10 million in 2017 has been reduced to $2.6 million. He said the school also is paying back a half of a $1.8 million loan without borrowing any money.

“No one expected that we wouldn’t have to borrow money,” said Watson. “We’re certainly moving in the right direction.”

The school is cutting personal expenditures by $500,000 in 2013. The district is eliminating 141/2 teaching positions, switching certain employees from full to part-time, not replacing positions vacated by retirements or replacing them with lower-paid teachers.

One of the biggest cost-saving transfers is reducing the amount of money in a self-insurance fund by nearly $1 million. In December 2012, the district had $1,223,000 in the fund, but according to the account policy, the district needed only to maintain $311,000 in the fund. The district transferred the rest of the money to the general fund.

Watson said the additional revenue from the self- insurance fund will last only a year.

Paul Marshall, chairman of the state-appointed oversight commission, said the district has reason to be optimistic.

“Things are definitely looking better than they used to,” said Marshall.

Marshall said the school could continue to save money through a change in an employee health-care plan. Marshall said the district could save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” if employees join a health-insurance consortium instead of staying self-insured.

Marshall said that change hinges upon current contract negotiations with the teacher’s union.

Watson couldn’t comment specifically on the negotiation process, citing fair labor practices as a reason.

“It’s an on going process that continues,” Watson said.

Marshall said he had conveyed his health insurance recommendations to district officials, but he said the commission does not get involved in contract negotiations.

“Our role is to look at the bottom line,” said Marshall. “We can’t force them to do anything on health care, but doing something with health care is a relatively easy way to save money.”

The fiscal commission is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. May 8 in the high school library.

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