New Castle News

May 21, 2013

Your Tax Money: Four districts undecided on vo-tech budget

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Four school districts are still deciding whether to support the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center’s 2013-14 budget.

The New Castle, Wilmington, Mohawk and Ellwood City school boards are waiting until June to vote on the proposed spending plan as they contemplate a growing debt the center owes to six of its eight member school districts.

The four districts want more information about how the center’s director, Dr. Andrew Tommelleo, plans to address deficits created by its adult practical nursing program.

Those shortfalls have prompted the administration to dip into funding owed as repayment to member school districts in order to pay its bills.

The center currently owes the districts $450,573. That includes $170,698 to New Castle, $31,462 to Mohawk, $50,199 to Neshannock, $96,365 to Shenango, $41,030 to Union and $60,819 to Wilmington.

That money has not been repaid to the districts because the nursing program deficit has impacted the school’s cash flow, Tommelleo explained.



RENT IS DUE

The amount does not include this year’s reimbursement to the districts, because they are based on the difference between projected enrollments from the beginning of the year and actual enrollments at the end of the school year.

Tommelleo informed the board in March that no repayments will made until the center has the money.

At the vo-tech board’s meeting Thursday, Wilmington board member Lynn Foltz brought to public light that in addition what the center owes the districts, the nursing program has not yet paid $50,000 in rent it owes the center for this school year.

Union superintendent, Dr. Alfonso Angelucci, serving as superintendent for the vo-tech this year, said all the superintendents met with Tommelleo Friday and the practical nursing program budget was discussed.

He said some new proposals were considered but he would not detail them because “they were discussions that are personnel issues. It’s something that each individual school district will discuss.”

He confirmed that personnel issues regarding the practical nursing program were part of discussions during a two-hour executive session at the vo-tech board meeting Thursday.

However, Tommelleo said Monday that nothing new is proposed. Rather, the center is focusing on making the plan work as proposed last month to raise revenues for the practical nursing program.

“We’ve got programs out there, and we’re just focusing on that plan.”

The center cannot operate at all without a budget. State law requires it be approved by six of the eight member districts and a majority of all school board members in the county’s eight districts.

The districts have until June 28 to vote.

Neshannock, Union and Laurel are the only ones that have approved the budget so far.

Shenango voted it down, 8 to 1.

Bob Curry, Wilmington’s member on the vo-tech board, said Monday he expects to see modifications to the long-range plan for the practical nursing program.

The plan Tommelleo unveiled last month details several new programs and fundraising ideas that would enable the center to repay the districts over four years by raising $140,000 in additional revenues each year.

“We’ll probably see some modifications to that,” Curry said, commenting, “The practical nursing program seems to be the stinkbug in the room.”



DISTRICT DILEMMAS

Mohawk superintendent Kathleen Kwolek said that at Friday’s meeting, “we wanted to make sure we had all of the information correct. Each district also is looking at how the money owed to the districts will impact their budgetary allotment for next school year and any reimbursement they have coming.”

“I wasn’t really impressed with the (nursing) program going forward for 2013-14,” Foltz commented at Thursday’s meeting. “I don’t see how they’re going to pay back the debt for the (past) loss.

“I think you’re at the point where you’re going to have to stop the program,” she said. “I feel it’s time for you to cut your losses.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)