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— Not only has the Decatur School District as a whole made a financial turn around, the school’s food service department is now operating in the black.

In the 2007-2008 school year the food service department lost nearly $67,000, but in the 2008-2009 school year it made $12,000, superintendent LeRoy Ortman said at Monday’s town-hall meeting.

“That far exceeded my expectations,” Ortman said.

The district was able to cut costs by eliminating two part-time positions at the start of the school year. Then in December, a full time employee resigned and was not rehired, essentially saving three part-time salaries, Ortman explained.

The food service department was also able to save money by carefully managing the way food was purchased and by using commodities more productively, he said.

Financial statements show the district had a $555,436 balance in its general operating fund as of Oct. 31, compared with a $286,634 balance on Oct. 31 of 2008. The 2008 balance included $100,000 from an operating loan that had not yet been repaid, so in reality the difference is about $170,000.

Ortman said he expects the general fund balance to grow to an excess of $1 million in November. November is usually the “flushest” month because of property tax income, he explained.

“What the state department has said without saying so officially is ‘you guys are off the hook.’ It’s just a matter of how they do it,” Ortman said.

Ortman said he has asked the Arkansas Department of Education legal department about the possibility of a special election for all the school board members before next September’s regular school board election.

According to Ortman, there has never been a special school board election for an entire board in Arkansas, but he said he believes it may be legal.

Ortman said the next step will be finding another superintendent after a school board is in place. School boards generally hire superintendents in January, February and March to step into their new role on July 1.

The six school employees and community members present agreed not to hold atown-hall meeting in December. The meeting, held on the third Monday of the month, would fall on Dec. 21 - the first day of Christmas break. The meetings are not usually well attended and there isn’t any pressing business in December, so Ortman recommended meeting again in January.

News, Pages 1 on 11/18/2009

Print Headline: Decatur Schools said to be ‘unofficially’ off the hook

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