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Special ed co-op denies USD 398's withdrawal request

Special audit will be conducted

Managing editor

Marion County Special Education Cooperative Board of Directors denied Peabody-Burns School District’s request Monday night to withdraw from the county cooperative.

Peabody-Burns representative Tony Zappone told the board that the school district was committed to doing what was best to serve students with in-house services.

The motion was seconded so it could come to a vote but Zappone was the only one voting in favor, which came as no surprise to him, he said.

The next step for the Peabody-Burns district will be to appeal the cooperative’s decision with the state board of education.

The matter could be discussed as soon as March by the state board.

According to Peabody-Burns Superintendent Rex Watson, the state will look at two issues: whether the children in the Peabody-Burns School District will be served and whether it will cost the state more money if the school district was on its own.

Is City of Marion interested in buying building?

Cooperative director Chris Cezar will make contact with Marion city officials regarding the possibility of the city purchasing the cooperative building and then leasing it to the cooperative.

Cezar also reported he had given a tour of the east wing to Marion County Health Department officials who might be interested in using it.

“Do we know who would be the owner of the building?” Marion representative Lyle Leppke asked.

Cezar said he did not.

Board members agreed information could be obtained but no decision would be made in the near future.

“Things are up in the air with financing,” Leppke said.

“We need to know about the appeal,” Centre representative Terry Deines said. “(Selling the building) is a one-year fix. What about next year?”

Leppke continued that the part of the building currently not being used by the cooperative needed to be rented to generate revenue.

“Do we need to be more aggressive?” Hillsboro representative and co-op board president Deb Geis asked. “Does someone need to attend a county commission meeting?”

Cezar said he would contact county officials.

Department audit

Following nearly 60 minutes of executive sessions — some that included Cezar and some that did not — the auditors that conducted last year’s audit will be contacted and asked to look at the books for this year.

The auditors will also review last year’s audit and examine the 2009-10 fiscal year to make the board comfortable regarding the cooperative’s financial position.

Board members also will complete Cezar’s evaluation and discuss it at the March board meeting.

Budget update

After going through the “what ifs,” of the budget, Zappone said he didn’t want to talk about what might or could happen.

“From my point of view, we need to plug in what we have and then figure out where we’re getting the money,” Zappone said.

Budget shortfalls would come from the five member districts.

The board had reviewed a budget that included $80,000 in additional state categorical aid that the district may or may not receive. An additional $350,000 — the asking price to purchase the cooperative building — was also in the budget.

“The picture is still bleak,” Cezar said. “We have a game plan for 2011 but 2012 is not looking too sweet.

“I don’t think we left any stones unturned,” he said.

“It’s all about the kids,” Zappone said. “We don’t want to do anything to hurt the kids. We need enough employees to provide services.”

Other options considered would be the reduction of licensed staff. Nearly $150,000 could be saved by releasing six employees.

Security officer hired

Following an executive session to discuss personnel, the board dismissed Marion High School para-professional Ed Kincaid and approved the hiring of a security guard for the OASIS school for safety reasons.

The approximate cost of the employee would be about $5,000 for the remainder of the school year.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2010

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