Dim school financial picture catches state’s eye

New treasurer Mike Pissini listens as members of the board question Pyers about a performance audit.

Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise James Pyers, project manager with the Ohio Performance Team, explains performance audits to the Wellington board of education.

Superintendent Dennis Mock discusses the possibiliy that the Wellington Schools will undergo a performance audit.

Nagging financial problems raised red flags in Columbus and now the Wellington Schools might be the target of a state performance audit in the near future.

Unchecked spending would have depleted the school system’s funds by 2016, according to a five-year forecast this past fall by treasurer Brad McCracken.

He anticipated a $1.4 million operating deficit by the end of the 2015-2016 school year, growing to $3.3 million by 2019.

Those numbers alerted James Pyers and his Ohio Performance Team at the state auditor’s office.

He outlined to the Wellington board of education last Monday the audit process the local schools might undergo.

“Performance audits provide elected officials and government employees an objective third party analysis of operations to help them improve performance-related costs and make informed, data-driven decisions,” Pyers said.

The entire process takes an average of eight to 10 months to complete.

A similar audit last year put the Clearview Schools in the crosshairs and found that the district spent more than its peers, contributing to large deficit projections.

Auditors recommended cutting waste that would net roughly $888,000 in annual savings, mostly through the reduction of 12 positions the state deemed unnecessary. Other factors included large step salary increases, paid time off for nine and 10-month classified employees, and poor temperature control.

It is uncertain whether Pyers and his team will conduct an audit here, however.

Superintendent Dennis Mock said Wellington may or may not still be on the Ohio Department of Education’s list of mandatory audits because it was tagged for investigation before the district made extensive cuts this winter.

Officials voted for layoffs, elimination of several sports teams, ending police patrols, and other steps that changed McCracken’s forecast.

Now it calls for a $1.2 million deficit by the end of the year and only a $240,000 deficit by the end of 2016.

New treasurer Michael Pissini said the district won’t know for a few weeks what the state education department’s decision is.

“Initially our situation looked much worse than it really is as of right now so Wellington may not even be on the list anymore and there might be other districts in greater need of these services,” he said.

If Wellington isn’t on the list, it is uncertain whether the audit will still happen.

The Ohio Department of Education would cover the cost of the roughly $60,000 to $70,000 audit should it be required, but if it’s not mandatory the district would have to cover that cost.

Pissini said the district will discuss the necessity of a performance audit if the state’s education department doesn’t require one.

Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.