NEW CASTLE —
Dr. Andrew Tommelleo, career and technical center director, said the school has been using general operating funds toward the program, and in turn, the center owes money to the participating school districts.
Each year, local school districts that send students to the vocational-technical school pay a per-pupil amount based on estimated enrollment at the beginning of the year. If enrollment falls below that figure, at the end of the year the center has to repay the district the difference between the estimate and the actual number of students enrolled.
The center currently owes the districts a total of $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 largely because the deficit from the nursing program has impacted the school’s cash flow, Tommelleo explained.
He informed the board at its March 21 meeting that refunds to the districts will not be paid until the center has the money.
Williams explained the center is not allowed to have a fund balance because its income is from participating schools. The nursing program has a deferred fund for any profits it makes, and when it shows a profit, the money goes into that fund after the program pays its bills to the school. The deferred fund has not had any money in it for a couple of years, she said, because of the debt.
Tillia has met with school officials and requested time to come up with plans to generate new funds and get her budget back on track.
Tommelleo, in turn, is asking the school districts to be patient in waiting for their repayments.
He said that if the financial gap isn’t closing in a year, staff cuts and teaching changes will have to be made in the nursing program.
“I’ve told Betty we can’t continue to have deficits every month,” Tommelleo said. “We have to make some significant changes, and she understands that. And I will promise you I’ll stick to that timeline.”
David DiGiammarino, a New Castle school board member who sits on the joint operating committee, had been questioning the program’s finances for a couple of months at the vo-tech board meetings.
“All I’m asking for is a viable plan to pay back this enormous amount of money,” he said at the most recent meeting. “I’m still waiting to see how this can be accomplished.”
Tommelleo said Tillia has an aggressive plan and has several ideas for programs that could enhance revenues.
“Betty’s not sitting still,” he said. “She’s feeling the pressure.”
“I’m happy about the fact that we at least have a deadline,” committee member Anna Pascarella of New Castle commented.
“What if the debt is $700,00 by then?” DiGiammarino asked.
All eight districts in the county are represented on the vo-tech school’s board. New Castle has four members and Ellwood City, two. Each of the other six districts has one member.