Shadyside Schools

THE SHADYSIDE Board of Education was the recipient of news Thursday night that it would rather not have received.

During the board’s monthly meeting, the district’s five-year forecast was unveiled. It contained a bittersweet message.

The district’s budget for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 is in solid shape, as both years are painted in black ink. Next year’s fiscal budget is a robust $1.4 million surplus. Amazingly, the following year it drops to a positive balance of $172,000

Unfortunately for Shadyside school officials, things turn real troublesome in the forecast’s third year. It indicates a deficit in the $1.3 million range. The situation grows increasingly worse the final two years.

Those projections are quite sobering.

Such a quick reversal in financial well-being is disturbing. The size of the deficit yields reason for concern.

While future deficits may not come as a surprise to Shadyside school officials, the severity of the problem might. The district is facing a major financial battle in the not-so-distant future.

The closing of the Burger Plant is a big reason for the looming shortfall. The plant’s parent company, FirstEnergy, will end its reimbursements to the district in fiscal year 2016.

Other factors are in play such as higher operating costs, increased salaries and benefits to go with less revenue flowing into the coffers.

The one piece of optimism that can be gleamed from the five-year forecast is that Shadyside school officials have two years to get their financial house in order.

To his credit, Superintendent Terry Brinker has already started putting a long-range planning committee in place. The panel will be charged with reviewing the forecast, taking stock of the district’s current status and putting a game plan in motion to head off fiscal calamity.

Shadyside school officials are being proactive.

They have two years to formulate a financial rescue plan of sizable proportions. It will be no easy task, but at least they have some time on their side.