JOHNSTOWN — On Monday, the Northridge Board of Education officially learned that effective March 20, the district will be placed in fiscal caution status by the Ohio Department of Education.
Treasurer Felicia Drummey said that means the administration and the Ohio Department of Education have concerns about the potential for a deficit at year’s end, and in future years. Being placed in fiscal caution will allow the ODE to provide technical support and strategic planning support to the district, as well as monthly monitoring of the district’s finances.
“It will be helpful to have that additional support and cooperation,” Drummey said. “[Fiscal caution status] is not any sort of ‘gotcha.’ We have really been working with the Department of Education since the beginning of the school year, and even the Auditor of State’s Office. We contract with the Auditor of State to prepare our financial statements, so they have all been well informed of our circumstances. And to have their expertise, will serve to help us.”
Drummey explained that fiscal caution does not mean ODE will come in and tell the district what it must cut to balance the budget.
“They will provide some insights and advice and recommendations, but they will not dictate,” she said. “It is really our responsibility to come up with a recovery plan that would demonstrate that we will not have a deficit in this year or next. What that plan is, we cannot rely on the hopes that a levy will pass. We have to have an alternative plan in place as corrective action.
“The reason we are in the caution is, one the ODE criterion is when there is a potential current year deficit with no acceptable plan in place to avoid the projected deficit. That’s when the state will make the declaration,” Drummey continued. “What it means to us to be in fiscal caution is that we will have to provide a written proposal within 60 days that will indicate what corrective measures or conditions have been revised to demonstrate that we will eliminate that deficit. Law does allow the department of education to visit us, and inspect all of our records. As part of that inspection, they will do monthly monitoring, and that has already started; they have reviewed February financial reports.
“Some of the steps that we have taken since December will be part of the recovery plan; for instance, the staff reductions that we have made. We have also frozen spending except for emergencies or essential supplies.”
If the ODE determines that the district has not submitted reasonable proposals or taken adequate action to remedy the potential deficit, then the state superintendent of schools may recommend to the auditor of state that the district be placed in fiscal watch or emergency.
Northridge voters last passed a new levy in 1997, when a three-year school income tax levy went into effect. Before that, it was 1989, with a property tax for operating expenses.
There will be an open community forum at Croton Church of Christ on March 30 at 7 p.m. which may provide an opportunity for community members to learn more about the district’s fiscal status. After brief introductory comments, the forum will be a question-and-answer session. Community members will be able to submit written questions to the school board and administration.
In other action at Monday’s meeting, the Golden Viking Award went to technology coordinator Shawn Wilkoski. He was nominated by the middle school computer teacher for his assistance in developing strategies for the eighth-grade keyboarding class.
Regarding personnel, the board accepted letters of resignation from head football coach Tim Priest and head golf coach Tony Price. It also approved administrative contracts for high school principal Jim Hall and school psychologist Abbey Jo Griffith. Angela Starner was hired to serve as sign language interpreter for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year, and a list of volunteers for the seventh-grader Cincinnati trip was accepted.
Board members were reminded that spring break is April 6-10.