Fiscal commission cautiously approves agreement
By danny restivo
Liberty Local Schools’ state-appointed fiscal commission approved a shared-services agreement with a neighboring school district, but not without hesitation from some members.
The committee discussed misgivings about sharing treasurer services with Hubbard before unanimously approving the contract during a meeting at the high school Wednesday.
Kristen Rock, a parent representative on the fiscal oversight commission, said the agreement was broad and left unanswered questions about bookkeeping, maintaining balances, taxes and salaries.
“For the past year, we heard how overworked our treasurer was, and now we’re [in effect] cutting the staff,” she said. “It’s not a lack of trust; I just want some clarity about what we’re doing.”
Liberty began shared-service talks with Hubbard after former Treasurer James Wilson stepped down Nov. 30. The two schools came to a tentative agreement to share services in early December.
The agreement, which has been approved by both school boards, stipulates that Hubbard’s treasurer, Rhonda Baldwin-Amorganos, will receive $45,029 of her salary from Hubbard and $24,246 from Liberty. The agreement is scheduled to expire July 31 if the contract is not renewed by Hubbard and Liberty.
Liberty Superintendent Stan Watson said the cost-sharing agreement will save the school roughly $37,000 a year.
Paul Marshall, fiscal oversight chairman, said the state commission did not want to impede the school board’s plan for recovery, though he did express concern about the agreement’s success.
“You go from having a full-time treasurer to someone who only spends 35 percent of her time [in Liberty], but the board feels like it can be done and we’re giving them the opportunity,” he said. “I applaud their effort to save money, but the question is whether the attempt will work.”
Marshall acknowledged the difficulty in finding a full-time treasurer during the middle of the school year if the shared-services contract was not approved. He said the commission can better assess the shared-services agreement in May.
“I’m giving it a chance to let it work,” he said. “But I’m not a patient person.”
Marshall said the commission is hoping to reveal a staffing analysis at the committee’s February meeting. He said the analysis will show how Liberty’s personnel and finances compare with districts similar in size and demographics. He hopes the findings will facilitate a healthy dialogue about the $1.3 million in cuts the school is facing.
The commission is scheduled to meet again at the school at 11 a.m. Feb. 27.