Liberty School District moves toward financial stability
By EMMALEE C. TORISK
The state-appointed fiscal-oversight commission approved several purchase orders and personnel changes, as well as indicated that the district’s financial future is getting back on track, during its Wednesday meeting at Liberty High School.
Paul Marshall, chairman of the financial-planning and supervision commission, said he anticipates a full recovery for the district in “a couple more years at the most.”
The average length for a district to do so is about four years, Marshall said. Liberty has been in a state of fiscal emergency since July 2011.
Since then, a projected deficit of $10 million in 2017 has been reduced to $2.6 million. The district achieved this by cutting personal expenditures by $500,000 in 2013, eliminating 141/2 teaching positions, switching some employees from full- to part-time and not replacing positions vacated by retirements.
Going forward, the fiscal oversight commission must approve any expenditures that exceed $5,000, as well as any personnel resignations, nonrenewals, reductions in force, employment and status changes.
Purchase orders approved Wednesday were $5,046.92 for legal expenses and $64,961 for technology to bring the existing equipment up to date. The latter was funded by a $75,000 donation from a Liberty alumnus.
“We want to keep consistent with the recovery plan, which is a road map on how to get the district out of fiscal emergency,” Marshall said. “We just look to make sure the district can afford [expenditures]. We’re very bottom-line oriented.”
Pat Ungaro, township administrator and member of the commission, said progress was slow at first, but that “everything seems to be moving at a reasonable pace.”
“These are difficult times,” Ungaro said. “You have ‘X’ amount of money. You either raise taxes, or you get smaller. They’re getting smaller. ... You have to take it one inch at a time.”
The next step toward financial solvency is to update and submit the district’s recovery plan, which should be updated each year, Marshall said.
An update on the revised recovery plan will be provided at the fiscal oversight commission’s next meeting at Liberty High School on July 24 at 11 a.m.