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Plum school board places business manager on leave

| Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006

A consultant hired by the Plum school board to look at the district's budget process recommended changes Wednesday as the board acknowledged that business manager Mark Lukacs is on paid leave.

Superintendent George Cooke declined to say why Lukacs is on leave. Sheldon Berk, who worked for 27 years as business manager in the Blackhawk School District in Beaver County, is serving as interim business manager.

Cooke declined to say how much Berk is being paid. Cooke said the board will announce Berk's salary when he is formally approved by the board at a meeting next Wednesday. Lukacs' salary is $85,893.

Ed Gardner, senior audit manager for Baldwin-based Case/Sabatini, an accounting and consulting firm, told board members he found the budgets for the past three years have contained contingency funds in the line item for instructional salaries.

Gardner said Lukacs told him that the practice of boosting the instructional salaries figure had gone on for 10 years prior to Lukacs doing the job.

Gardner recommended that contingency funds be placed in a budgetary reserve line item.

He also said that the board needs to vote on the transfer of funds within the budget before the transfers occur rather than after the fact.

The board hired Case/Sabatini for $3,200 after the Plum Borough Education Association discovered about $600,000 in extra money in the instructional salaries portion of this school year's preliminary budget. The teachers' union scrutinized the preliminary budget after school officials slashed 19 teaching positions in an attempt to balance the spending plan. The positions later were restored.

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