Liberty schools ask for oversight release

By jeanne starmack


The Liberty Local School District is asking for release from fiscal emergency.

At its meeting Wednesday, the commission that oversees the district for the state while it’s in fiscal emergency voted to ask for release.

On Monday, the school board voted to do so, said schools Superintendent Stan Watson.

The next and last step, said Watson and Paul Marshall, who chairs the commission for the Ohio Department of Education, is for the commission to meet one last time. State Auditor David Yost is expected to be present to officially release the district. That meeting is tentatively set for 11 a.m. Aug. 27 at Liberty High School.

The district went into fiscal emergency in May 2011, shortly after state auditors said its books were unauditable and its treasurer resigned. It had a $1.9 million deficit. Two conversion schools were operating in the district, and it believed they were going to bring in additional per-pupil dollars. They did not, and the district shut them down.

It’s sure has been rough,” said Watson, who has been superintendent since 2010.

“But we said from the very beginning there are two groups of people we’d be mindful of,” he continued. “The students, and the taxpayers. We’re pleased we didn’t have to raise taxes.”

He said there is nothing the district plans to do differently now that there will be no state oversight.

“It’s a huge relief to have a positive five-year forecast,” he said. “But the way the district is funded has not changed, and there’s been no increase in revenues, and so much money is going to the charter schools — it’s always going to be a struggle.”

Paul Marshall, chairman of the oversight commission, said Watson and schools treasurer Lori Simeone deserve credit for doing what they had to do.

“The district’s been very cooperative,” he said, adding that three years is a typical length of time for a district to be in fiscal emergency.

Marshall said a key issue was a change in health care.

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