July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Cloverleaf Schools could cut employee benefits

State Auditor Dave Yost said cash-strapped Cloverleaf Schools can save $300,700 annually by further cuts in employee benefits.

The recommendation was in a performance audit released Thursday.

The audit broke down the potential savings:

• $97,000 a year by reducing sick leave payouts for retirees. Employees now are paid for a maximum 90 days at retirement. State law requires a 30-day maximum.

• $72,600 annually by increasing classified employees’ contributions to their health care premiums from 12 percent to 15 percent.

• $4,800 by requiring the use of direct deposit and eliminating paper pay stubs.

Rebecca Sovchik, president of the Cloverleaf Education Association, which represents the district’s 158 teachers, criticized the audit, saying it didn’t fully acknowledge all the staff concessions and cuts the Cloverleaf administration and school board already have made.

“It think it does us all a disservice,” she said.

Nearly all the auditor’s recommendations would require renegotiation of teacher and support staff contracts.

Sovchik pointed out the teachers’ union negotiated a three-year contract last year with no base salary increase. She said teachers have not had a base salary increase since 2009.

The school administration now is negotiating a new contract with support staff.

Cloverleaf Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said most of the audit’s recommendations would be difficult to implement.

“The way negotiations work, there is give and take,” he said. “And it’s not just one side dictating these are the concessions that would be made.”

Kubilus compared this audit to the last performance audit, done in 2004, which recommended more than $1 million in savings.

“I feel that this performance audit is a validation that we’re being good stewards of our taxpayer money,” Kubilus said.

Even if achieved, the savings only would put a dent in the district’s projected deficit of $3 million next year.

Cloverleaf was placed in fiscal emergency in January 2012 and a five-member state commission now manages the district’s financial decisions.

Over the past five years, Cloverleaf has cut $6.6 million from its now $24.2 million general fund budget.

The district failed to pass a levy in this month’s primary election, and a renewal levy along with another request for new money will be on the special election ballot in August.

The audit commended the financially strapped district for saving money through sharing a treasurer with Medina Schools, effective energy conservation and its partnership with the Cloverleaf Recreation Center.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.