After more than five years of hard work and difficult decision making, the East Liverpool City School District hasn't just seen the light at the end of the tunnel, it has actually stepped out into the sunlight.
On Tuesday the district officially emerged from fiscal emergency - a designation bestowed upon it by the state auditor's office on Dec. 18, 2003. At that time a $2.6 million deficit was projected for fiscal year 2004.
The arduous task of balancing the books was assigned to the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which included two local members - Al Fricano and Andrew Monteiro. Accomplishing this assignment has not been easy. Twenty-nine teaching positions as well as several administrative positions had to be eliminated to bring the finances into the black.
Cutting positions is never fun, but as Superintendent Ken Halbert pointed out, in a small close-knit community such as East Liverpool, it is especially tough. Telling a neighbor or a friend that he or she no longer has a job can be gut-wrenching.
But the commissioners stepped up to the plate, and after many long hours of meetings, achieved solvency. The district is projected to remain in the black for the next five years.
However, as Halbert noted, we're still experiencing a tough economy, so this is not the time for the school district to let down its financial guard.
"We will be diligent. We will watch our finances. We will do what we have to do...," Halbert said.
We certainly hope so. We would hate to see all of the hard work of the commission be for naught.
All the members of the commission deserve to be commended. Halbert thanked members on behalf of the students and staff, but probably the best thank-you gift commissioners could have received came when they, too, lost their jobs. As its last official act the commission voted to dissolve itself.