COLUMBIANA - Hoping to avoid lay-offs the city school district began offering a retirement and resignation incentive to classified employees this month.
The incentive is being offered through the Columbiana Local Association of School Support and was approved by the board of education this week.
The one-time incentive offers a $5,000 lump sum payment from the board of education to classified employees with at least 10 years with the district. Those participating in the incentive must have submitted their resignation or retirement notification by June 1, with an effective end date on or before Sept. 1.
The incentive does not eliminate eligibility for the district's already existing $3,000 lump sum payment for early notification, however, and those eligible under the state system will still receive severance pay. It also does not prevent those who have resigned or retired from returning to the district to work.
Superintendent Donald Mook said the incentive is an "opportunity for the district to keep expenditures down" and that at least one employee was spared a lay-off through the plan.
"We didn't have a great deal of employees take us up on it," he said.
He didn't estimate how many lay-offs may be expected in the future.
The district had previously approved placing a $1 million operating tax levy on the August election ballot but rescinded the move after changes to the five-year financial forecast reflected a $48,196 surplus and a little more than $2 million cash balance for this year. The cash balance is expected to remain in the black until 2015 and a $1.3 million deficit is projected for 2016.
The original five-year forecast presented in October projected deficit spending through 2016 with a negative cash balance cropping up in 2015 and a $1.8 million deficit by 2016.
Treasurer Lori Posey recommended the levy in early April to shore up the district's trend of deficit spending and create positive fund balances all five years. In May she recommended it be taken off the table due to the change in revenue which she attributed to money received through the sale of the Firestone Farms housing development, higher-than-expected income tax received, and expected oil and gas lease revenue, among other things.
A $4 million bond issue the board approved in April will still appear on the August ballot. If passed, money from the bond will pay for the refurbishment of South Side Middle School, which was constructed in the early 1960s.
Improvements needed at the school include the replacement of the roof and upgrades to the HVAC and electrical system. Mook previously estimated that a new building would cost around $8 million while renovations are only half that. The 25-year bond issue will cost $22.48 annually for a $50,000 home.
On Tuesday he said a committee to discuss the issue has formed and meets every Monday at 6 p.m. at the high school. The meetings are open to the public.
In other business, former South Side Middle School Principal David Buzzard is seeking to return to the administrative position.
Buzzard submitted his resignation in late February, just shy of wrapping up his three-year contract with the district. The resignation was for retirement purposes and approved by the board in March. His retirement is effective July 1. He made no public comment at that time he was intending to return to the district.
A public hearing for the possible rehire received no response from those attending the Tuesday meeting. Allowing a former employee to collect retirement benefits and continue working is commonly referred to as "double-dipping."
Board members also did not comment during the hearing. Posey said Buzzard's new contract will appear on the next board meeting agenda.
Prior to being hired at South Side Buzzard was principal at Daw Middle School in Wellsville. He has 30 years of education experience.
The board then approved several personnel matters, including resignations for Julie Bussard, paraprofessional at Joshua Dixon Elementary and Dianne Kosco, intervention specialist at South Side Middle School.
Bussard's resignation is for retirement and was effective June 1. She has worked for the district 20 years and was making $12.91 per hour, Posey said.
Kosco began working for the district six years ago and was making an annual salary of $38,780.
Those approved for intervention specialist positions at South Side were Alexandra Marsco and Megan McAllister. Kristen Huber was also approved for an intervention specialist position at Joshua Dixon Elementary and Sara Miller was approved for the part-time intervention specialist position at South Side.
Their step salaries have yet to be set and will be set based on their credentials, Posey said.
Supplemental contracts were awarded to more than 20 individuals for teaching, advising, tutor and coaching positions.
The next board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. July 2 in the high school media center.