LIBERTY - More than two years after it was placed in fiscal emergency, the Liberty School District is reporting a positive balance on the books.
Superintendent Stan Watson said after being more than $1 million in debt and borrowing a $1.8 million solvency loan from the state, he is happy to report that the district remains in the green after paying off the debt. The second of two $900,000 payments was made this year.
"Any time you can operate and you're not in debt and you're doing it in a public entity, you have to feel good about that," he said.
Treasurer Lori Simeone said the five-year forecast showed the district $345,000 in the positive for this year.
"We feel good that we've reduced about $4 million in expenditures," said Watson.
Simeone said some of the major cuts include reductions in staffing, savings from insurance premiums and concessions made by employees.
Last year, the district had an excellent claims year and was able to take premium holidays and use those dollars for operating expenses, she explained.
The district also recently settled a contract with the teacher's union in which employees will pay 10 percent of their benefits as well as receive no wage increases for the next three years. They also switched from being self-insured to an insurance consortium.
But despite the positive balance, Watson said the district is projected to move back into a deficit after 2016, and he predicts a levy lies in the district's future as an upcoming recommendation by the fiscal oversight commission.
"I think they'll be recommending that; I'm relatively certain that they will," he said, explaining that it likely will be stronger than a recommendation. "They look at five or six years. I understand that a lot of school levies weren't very successful here; I understand that people are reluctant to pass new taxes."
Neither Simeone nor Watson could estimate a dollar amount or time frame for the potential levy.
"They're waiting to make a decision to see if the board wants to decide on the amount, so I'm not sure what they're going to recommend," Simeone said.
Watson said, "There's still a lot of work to do, but we feel good."