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Cost-saving measures OK’d

Alissa Widman Neese • Jan 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

The worst is yet to come.

Facing a projected deficit of about $2 million in the upcoming school year, Huron Schools officials are anticipating $1 million in cuts in the next few months.

At their first meeting of the year Tuesday, board members approved two cost-saving measures to start chipping away:

• Eliminate Huron High School’s Community-Based Instruction program, or CBI, which had a dwindling enrollment of about eight students this year.

• Establish the district’s first-ever policy for rehiring retired administrators, which does not allow the rehired individuals to earn more than a base-level salary.

EHOVE Career Center partners with Huron Schools to provide the CBI program. The reduction will save the district about $51,000 annually starting next year. The vote was 3-1, with board member John Caporini voting against the decision and board member Eric Muehlhauser abstaining.

“I really don’t see it as cost-effective at this point,” superintendent Dennis Muratori said. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t come to you, knowing where our district is financially, and suggest letting it go”

Huron Schools is projecting a deficit in each year of its five-year financial forecast. Officials anticipate the district will spend all its reserve cash by 2017. Its annual budget is about $14.6 million.

The newly approved policy, meanwhile, will not provide an immediate cost savings, but it could impact the district if it ever wishes to rehire a retired administrator, because it places a cap on an individual’s salary. The vote was 4-1, with board member Tim Sowecke voting against the decision.

Board members emphasized they have not rehired a retired administrator in quite some time. The policy can be modified, if necessary, they said.

Huron to host ‘State of the Schools’

• Huron # Schools superintendent Dennis Muratori will give a “State of the Schools” address later this month, highlighting the district’s priorities for 2014 and beyond. 

• The event is 7-8 p.m. Jan. 29 in the McCormick Junior High School auditorium. Anyone can attend. 

• Topics will include new state academic mandates, operational and financial priorities, as well as supporting information that will help frame future decisions, according to a news release.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, board members discussed the significant damage that occurred to Huron High School during this month’s devastating winter storm.

On Jan. 4, during a walkthrough of the building, principal Scott Matheny discovered pipes and a water heater had frozen and burst on the second floor, flooding a significant portion of the first-floor library. He, two other administrators, custodians, maintenance workers and RestorePro employees cleaned up the mess. The district is working to repair the damages.

Treasurer Mike Weis estimates the damage totals about $50,000, but it will be insured and only cost Huron Schools about $1,000.

“(Matheny) was instrumental in catching it when he did to alleviate any further damage, which is very much appreciated” Muratori said.

Meanwhile, RestorePro employees are also battling a mold problem in Shawnee Elementary School, particularly in the building’s basement, where the district’s administrative offices are located. The process could cost about $20,000 or more, but Weis said it should also be insured. It will displace several employees, including Weis, for a few weeks.

Tuesday’s meeting was newly elected board member Muehlhauser’s first.

To kickoff the gathering, board members selected Scott Slocum as their president and Sowecke as their vice president. Slocum and Sowecke served in the same positions this past year. Both votes were 4-1, with Caporini voting against the decisions.

Board members also voted Tuesday to change the start time of regular meetings to 6 p.m. Meetings will remain on the third Tuesday of each month, unless otherwise notified.

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