Sparta schools search for new business administrator

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:55

    Forensic audit on hold until regular audit is complete Sparta — The school district will scrap its search for an interim business administrator to replace Dr. Warren Ceurvels, who retired last month, and look for a full-time replacement instead, Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton announced at the Board of Education meeting this week. Minimal response to the district’s ad for an interim business administrator was cited as the reason to open the position to full-time applicants, Morton said. In the meantime, Barbara Decker, who has been the district’s assistant business administrator for the past two years, will serve as the acting BA and was approved by the full board Monday night. Ceurvels had been with the district since 2007 when he was hired as an interim business administrator to replace Ron Wolfe who retired at the end of 2006. Ceurvels was hired as the full-time BA in 2008. The discovery of a previously unreported budget surplus of around $3 million last June, which resulted in an internal tug-of-war over who knew what and when, is presumed to be the primary reason for Ceurvels’ departure. Terms of Ceurvels’ agreement with the district include that he will remain on paid leave until the end of March and will receive his base salary of $172,640 a year, but will receive no benefits during this time. The salary reflects a wage freeze for the last two years. Ceurvels also agreed to provide consulting services to the district through March to help bring the new BA up to speed and to provide information regarding the planned forensic audit of the budget surplus. Yearly audit held up by information from insurance broker However, the forensic audit, which many believe will provide some answers as to how the surprise budget surplus came about, will have to wait a few more weeks to begin because the school district’s regular yearly audit is not yet finished. This audit is usually completed by the end of August each year and reported to the board by September and to the public in October or November. One of the reasons for the hold-up, according to auditors, Nisivoccia and Co. LLP, is that the district’s insurance broker has not reported the balance remaining in the Rate Stabilization Reserve account. This account holds funds, as advised by the auditors, to offset any unexpected overages due to catastrophic illnesses of district employees that can result in a spike in the cost of premiums for health care coverage. If the funds are not needed, they roll into the next year’s budget as a surplus. In June, Ceurvels announced the unspent funds remaining in the RSR account were around $600,000 and said this was one factor that led to the unexpected surplus. He advised these funds be spent prior to the end of fiscal 2010-2011 and they were part of the $1.3 million spent on technology upgrades for the schools at the June BOE meeting. But according to the auditors, this number has actually not been reported yet. Nisivoccia was also waiting for the board to approve the Amended Long Range Facilities Plan to reflect the property donated to the school district by the Township in February of 2010, for the purpose of building an athletic field at the High School. The LRFP was approved at the meeting on Monday night. Cost analysis for re-opening MAS for full-day kindergarten in progress Morton announced that Dr. Kathleen Monks has completed a cost analysis for the possible reopening of Mohawk Avenue School for pre-school and full-day kindergarten. He said Monday he had just received her analysis that day and would review the numbers and present them at the next board meeting. Morton has said he hopes to fund full-day kindergarten within the existing budget for next year, but said Monday the concern is how much the program will cost going forward in terms of maintaining the staff over time. After studying Monk’s cost projections and analysis, Morton said he will have a better idea of what is possible. If the full-day kindergarten program can indeed be implemented and sustained within reasonable budgetary constraints, it will likely become a reality by next September. Morton said the state has given the green light to reopen Mohawk Avenue School for this purpose and has identified the building as an appropriate K - grade 5 facility. Some of the rooms can also be used to for special education, which would allow some of the district’s out-of-district-placement special needs students to be brought back into the district. Morton has said it is preferable to have special needs children remain in Sparta where they can attend school with their friends and neighbors. The additional MAS classrooms may allow for this to happen.