LIBERTY - The Liberty Board of Education is enlisting residents for an advisory panel to provide ways to deal with the school district's projected $1.3-million deficit by the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Board President Joseph Nohra Jr. said the community support is needed to help provide ways to solve the district's financial crisis and reduce or eliminate the deficit.
''We want to hear what the residents want to see happen. Where do they want to see reductions made, and what do they want to see happen to this district?'' he said.
The Board of Education has scheduled its next meeting for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the high school community room. District Treasurer Jim Wilson said he will present the five-year financial forecast at that meeting. The district's current budget is $14 million.
The state placed the district in fiscal emergency in July 2011 and assigned a Financial Planning and Supervision Commission to keep tabs on its finances.
Last spring, the state commission - which approves all district financial decisions - reviewed the district's forecast. At the time, the forecast showed the district facing more than an $11 million deficit by 2016. Nohra said the forecast will be addressed next week.
The financial supervision commission has ordered the board to make budget cuts or the commission will take over and make the cuts.
School officials and board members said they realize they are to the ''bare bones'' and there is not much left to cut without drastically affecting the students' education.
School Superintendent Stan Watson, who started in the district two years ago, said the citizen panel is a good way to get residents involved.
''We have reached the point where we do not have the options that other districts may have. With the residents being involved we can hear what they have to say and see if there are any avenues worth looking at,'' he said.
According to Wilson, the district cut $645,000 in the 2010-11 school year, $1.7 million in the 2011-12 school year and $50,000 in the 2012-13 school year. In January, the board approved a $1.2-million deficit-reduction plan that eliminates 16 full-time jobs effective for fiscal year 2013.
Officials said the worst-case scenario would be dissolving the district if it can't function financially.
Nohra said open enrollment and school-choice programs have created huge financial losses in revenue for the district at about $1.7 million annually.
Board member Diana DeVito, who has been in education for 40 years, said she looks forward to ''thoughtful input from the community that will help answer the question, 'What kind of school district do you want?'''
DeVito said she favors Nohra's idea for the panel.
''I have had many sleepless nights because of what the district has faced and the cuts that have had to be made,'' she said. ''People say they want a 21st century school district but many don't want to pay for it.''
The district does not have a levy on the ballot this November.