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District’s reserve cash depleting

Alissa Widman Neese • Oct 10, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Less than a month before its upcoming levy, Perkins Schools’ financial forecast is rather gloomy.

At a brief meeting Wednesday, board members reviewed an updated fiveyear forecast, indicating the district will spend almost all its reserve cash, depleting the fund to a mere $23,500 by the end of the school year. The district’s annual budget is about $21 million.

All school districts must submit an updated forecast to the Ohio Department of Education by Oct. 30, indicating a positive cash balance at the end of the school year, district treasurer Lisa Crescimano said.

“I’ll continually update the board and the public if anything changes, due to us being so close to zero at the end of the year,” Crescimano said.

The forecast doesn’t account for funding a proposed 10-year, 6.73-mill emergency operating levy would generate if voters approve it in November.

Also Wednesday, the board agreed to hire Tim Zapadka as a part-time physical education teacher at Furry Elementary School.

Zapadka has been substitute teaching for Tracey Hiss, a former teacher and track coach charged Sept. 6 with possession of a dangerous drug. Zapadka was a district teacher the past two years.

Perkins Schools eliminated Hiss and Zapadka’s teaching positions and several others in June during staff reductions. When a position opened up at Furry Elementary School this fall, Hiss was set to receive it because of her seniority, but her ongoing legal matters required the district temporarily hire Zapadka, next in line.

Hiss allegedly provided prescription-strength pain relief patches to a handful of students in mid-May, prompting district officials to suspend her until the outcome of her criminal investigation. She entered a plea of not guilty this past week in Erie County Common Pleas Court. Her next court appearance is Dec. 12.

“Should things change, we may need to lay off (Zapadka) and rehire (Hiss), but now that we know this is going to last until at least December it was only fair to retroactively pay him a salary,” superintendent Jim Gunner said.

On a related note, the board also agreed to switch the district’s legal services.

After a 15-minute closed-door session, the board signed a contract with the law firm Firestone, Brehm, Wolf, Whitney & Young, costing about $33,000 for the remainder of the school year. The previous legal services, provided by Pebble & Waggoner, billed at $295 per hour.

Since 2006, when Perkins Schools hired Pebble & Waggoner, its annual costs for legal services ranged from about $33,600 in 2009-10 to $266,011 in 2006-07. The new firm’s flat rate will save the district money in the long term, board members said.

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