School expects to see no new dollars this fiscal year

EAST LIVERPOOL – With a state budget predicting zero increases over the next fiscal year, city school district officials will most likely be asking their state legislators to intervene.

District Treasurer Todd Puster offered an update to the school board Monday night on the 2014-2015 budget released recently by Gov. John R. Kasich, saying, “He said one thing, yet another thing happened.”

While part of the governor’s budget recommendation provides for targeting low-wealth and economically disadvantaged school districts, Puster showed figures indicating that low wealth districts such as those in Martins Ferry, New Lexington and Portsmouth will receive no new funding, while high wealth districts such as those in Woodridge, New Albany and Olentangy will see significant increases.

East Liverpool expects to see no new dollars this fiscal year or in the 2014-2015 school year, despite ranking 62nd lowest in resident income and 18th lowest in per pupil property value among Ohio’s 614 school districts, as well as having 73 percent of its students eligible for free and reduced lunches and 21 percent of its student population enrolled in special education, according to Puster.

He pointed out that the detailed calculations behind the governor’s numbers have not been made public, making it more difficult to understand his reasoning.

Four years ago, Gov. Ted Strickland’s budget also proposed no new money for the school district, but legislators “listened to the story we told,” according to Puster, who said it resulted in additional funding.

He said it will be up to not only school treasurers but school board members to approach legislators to seek additional funding.

In other matters Monday night, the board approved a change order for the installation of a makeup air unit in the visitor’s locker room as part of the on-going Patterson Field improvement project, at a $10,000 cost.

Board member Richard Wolf opposed the recommendation, saying he will “not vote for one penny more for this project which is marked with incompetence and deception,” saying it has become the “laughingstock of the valley.”

In personnel issues, the board approved the hiring of Melissa Baker as assistant to the treasurer, effective April 1, at an annual salary of $36,000. Baker, who is moving from the executive secretary of the treasurer position, will replace Rhonda Jarrett who recently retired.

Kenna Rayl was hired to replace Baker, effective the same date, at an annual salary of $27,000. Currently a bus aide, Rayl has served as a substitute for Baker.

Board President Janice Martin abstained from voting for Rayl, who is her niece.

Following slightly more than a half-hour executive session, the board returned to approve grievances filed by custodians Elizabeth Wines and Terry Fone.

Martin said after the meeting two custodians were needed to work on a Saturday and substitutes were called instead of the regular custodians, resulting in the grievance.

The resignation of career tech teacher Daniel Painter was also approved, with board member Larry Walton commending Painter for his 22 years of service to the district, calling him a “tremendous asset.”

Principal Bryian Burson reported on activities at the high school, primarily focusing on upcoming OGTs, saying six seniors and 24 juniors still need to pass the state-mandated tests in order to graduate.

Daily intervention is being given during the school day to the seniors and weekly intervention to the juniors, with some discussion held regarding the possibility of offering after-school intervention.