Wyoming Valley West finance manager resigns, board OKs debt restructuring

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
Wyoming Valley West High School. - Sean McKeag | Times Leader

KINGSTON — Wyoming Valley West School District Finance Manager Joe Rodriguez is leaving the post, effective Dec. 31.

The school board accepted his resignation during Wednesday’s monthly meeting.

Looking to free up money in a budget that remains tight, the board also voted to restructure some long-term debt, making smaller payments now and bigger payments later.

According to state records, Rodriguez has been with the district for 17 years. His salary last year was $103,708. He served as assistant finance manager for more than a decade before becoming finance manager in 2006. The board also voted to retain him as a consultant “at a fee to be determined.”

Most of the meeting was dominated by parents criticizing the board’s decision to stop transporting students to and from day care centers, with one day care center owner and six working mothers asking the board to reconsider the change, set to take effect in November. The board is making that move to save money. Rodriguez has said the district will save about $39,000 a year for each school bus it can eliminate from daily routes, and that the change should eliminate one bus and possibly two.

Board President Joe Mazur predicted additional bus runs will be eliminated by streamlining bus routes once day care centers are no longer on the routes.

But those savings won’t come for months. To free up cash for the coming years, the board voted to restructure payments on two bonds issued in 2014. Rodriguez said the move will not extend the length of time the payments will be made, but that the district will make smaller payments for the next five years and larger payments after that. He said that should free up about $350,000 in the budget for the next five years.

Mazur noted the district made another move to save money: Bringing several special education classes back in-house. School districts often contract out special education services if the number of students requiring them is low because it is cheaper to pay an outside agency — often the Luzerne Intermediate Unit, locally — per pupil rather than hiring new staff.

But larger districts have often argued that, when the number of special education students requiring similar services grows large enough, it is cheaper to hire staff and do the work within the district. Hazleton Area and Wilkes-Barre Area, Luzerne County’s two largest districts by enrollment, have many special education classes in-house. Wyoming Valley West is the county’s third largest district.

According to state records, almost 19 percent of Wyoming Valley West’s 4,572 students in 2017-18 were special education.

On Tuesday, the board voted to officially change school district data reports to reflect that move, adding three autistic classes to each of two schools, Chester Street and Third Avenue. Three life skills classes were added to State Street and the middle school, and four were added to the high school. Four emotional support classes were added to the high school.

Wyoming Valley West High School.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL100416WVWResponse3.jpgWyoming Valley West High School. Sean McKeag | Times Leader

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish