New Castle News

May 23, 2013

Vo-tech budget loses support

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Now there are only two.

That is the number of school districts that have approved the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center budget for the 2013-14 year after Union board’s withdrew support this week.

The Union board rescinded its vote on the vocational-technical school’s budget after approving it on a 5-4 vote last month.

This week, board members voted 8-0 against the $6,842,838 spending plan. Carmen Merolillo abstained, saying he preferred to wait for more information.

Neshannock and Laurel are the only districts that have approved it.

Shenango also has rejected the budget. New Castle, Wilmington, Mohawk and Ellwood City have delayed voting until next month.

John Bertolino, Union’s president who voted against the budget both times, said that after other board members saw recent publicity about the spending plan, they started asking more questions.

“We had discussions and reconsidered,” Bertolino said, largely because of financial problems associated with the practical nursing program.

“That means a lot to some members — plus our cost per pupil. Some board members think that is still too high. There are a lot of question marks right now.”

The vocational technical school owes a total of $450,573 to six of the county’s eight school districts as repayments of the difference between projected enrollment paid at the beginning of the year and the actual end-of-year enrollment figures.

That total owed is only for the year 2010-11, according to information the center’s director, Andrew Tomelleo, distributed to joint operating commitee members last month.

Tommelleo made a proposal to the districts last month that includes new revenue generating projects for the practical nursing program. He anticipates the plan will generate an additional $140,000 each year, and that the districts can be paid back in four years.

The center has been using the districts’ money to offset deficits created by the nursing program.

The amount owed to the districts from 2011-12, if any, have not been calculated yet because the audit for that year has not yet been concluded, Chastity Williams, the center’s business manager, explained Monday.

The vo-tech budget must be approved by six of the eight districts in the county and a majority of the school board members by June 28 in order for the center to stay open for its summer school program.