Ferry schools close out year

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Pictured are Martins Ferry City School Board Members Bill Suto on the left, and Scott Ballint, as the board closes out 2018.

MARTINS FERRY — School board members here had some welcome news this week: The district’s five-year forecast was predicted to finish in the black.

As it prepared to close out the school year, the Martins Ferry Schools Board of Education discussed the positive financial position during its Thursday night meeting.

“From a revenue standpoint, we’re in a better position than we’ve been, ever,” said board member Scott Ballint. “I’ve been on the board 20 years, I’ve never seen one where we’ve been in the black for all five years…We’re usually in the red for years four and five.”

He also said most school districts have similar patterns in their forecasts. However, Superintendent Jim Fogle said the board was looking at a forecast that was subject to change.

“It can change a lot,” said Ballint, who agreed with the superintendent.

Although oil and gas interests are active in Belmont County, Ballint said those interests did not affect the forecast. Instead, the board member cited practices such as working with the Ohio Mid-Eastern Regional Education Agency as helping keep the district afloat.

“Most of it is recognizing savings,” he said. “It’s been a good process and this team works really well together, reducing costs and finding savings.”

Fogle said the Ohio State Budget is expected in late June, and that could affect the forecast.

“There’s a lot of variables in there,” said Ballint.

In other business, Fogle commented on the closing school year — which ends May 24 — and graduation on May 27.

“We’re looking forward to graduation,” he said. “That’s always one of our favorite days. Seeing our young people take that next step into whatever the next part of their life’s going to be, whether it’s a four-year institution for college or university, or if it’s a two-year technical degree. Whatever the case may be.”

Fogle also said the National Education Foundation ranked the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy second place in 2018, only after an academy Arizona. The district’s academy had taken first place in 2017.

Also Thursday, the board:

∫ Approved a contract of $19,000 with Kendall Behavioral Solutions LLC in Martins Ferry for next year to provide assistance for the district’s special need students.

∫ Approved an increase of 7.9 in health insurance premiums. Fogle said this was a smaller increase, with past years seeing as much as 20 or 30 percent increased.

∫ Approved about $46,000 and $18,000 for asphalt sealing and maintenance to repair asphalt and fill cracks in the district campus during the summer months.