NEW CASTLE —
The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center’s proposed 2014-15 budget is nearly $300,000 less than this year’s.
No staff cuts are proposed, according to the center’s director Leonard Rich.
The school’s joint operating committee voted 11-0 Thursday to approve a $6.1 million spending plan, which — according to Rich — includes a new oil and gas technician program and instructor.
Mohawk representative Scott Singer was absent.
The budget must be approved before June 30 by six of the eight member school boards, as well as by a majority of all board members of all districts.
In recent years, under different administration, a balanced budget that was acceptable to the local districts was an issue and often came down to the wire to get enough approvals.
Since then, changes in the business staff and administration have prompted closer scrutiny of finances, including a forensic audit that allegedly showed unauthorized overtime paid to the center’s assistant business manager, and the elimination of a school-operated practical nursing program for adults that was draining the center’s funds.
“I can’t speak to previous planning, but over the last month, department by department, line item by line item, Mary Kosek and I have looked at actual expenditures going back to (previous years) related to line items,” Rich said. “Then we looked at areas where we thought we were spending too much money and made appropriate cuts.”
For example, “we looked at technology and balanced our needs with wants and made some significant cuts.”
Kosek, Laurel school district’s business manager, is helping the center with its finances since it ran into a financial jam last year with its practical nursing program.
Next year’s budget does not call for any staff cuts, Rich said, adding, “Everyone who works there now, we’re anticipating their return. If they resign or retire, they will be replaced, plus we will add an oil and gas position.”
Rich dispelled rumors of potential job cuts in the cafeteria.
“We’re not cutting any cafeteria workers.”
Going back to the 2009-10 through 2012-13 budgets and looking at the cafeteria, “it’s been losing a lot of money,” Rich said. “It’s not uncommon to lose some, but the losses were a bit excessive. We’re looking at all procedures and prices to be more fiscally responsible and efficient.”
He is meeting with the head of the cafeteria and any decisions made will involve that person in discussions, he explained, adding, “We’re not looking to displace anybody.”
Rich noted about $4 million of the district’s anticipated income is tuition from the member school districts. The budget also contains federal and state revenues, including the state subsidy per student.
The districts’ shares would be based on the number of students attending the center from each district. New Castle has the most, with an average daily attendance of 110 to 120 students, or about 33 percent, Ellwood City has about 25 percent and the other six school district have smaller percentages.
This year’s cost per pupil is $11,846. The cost per pupil in next year’s budget will be $11,500.
The school has 386 students enrolled for next year and Rich said he hopes to see 400 by September.
He pointed out that part-time career and technical centers in surrounding county have half-time programs and their costs per student are roughly $8,500. The Lawrence County center offers academics and career training for students full time for only $3,000 more, he said.
The center’s 2014-15 budget is figured on 390 to 400 students, which is consistent with years past, Rich said, and the $4 million from the districts also is consistent.
He anticipates about 175 10th-graders will start at the center in the fall.
Vo-Tech hirings, retirement
The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center’s joint operating committee took the following action at its regular meeting Thursday:
•Agreed to add a licensed practical nurse through supplemental contract to provide instruction for the health assistant program.
•Accepted the retirement of the physical education teacher, Joe Palmiro. A replacement will be hired.