By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted school board members had some close votes on financial issues in their organizational meeting for 2012.
Board members Jan. 5 approved, by a 3-2 margin, both extending the contract for five years of longtime board Treasurer Robert Matson, as well as joining the National School Board Association. In both votes, new board President Tom Herbster, Vice President Joanne DiCarlo and new member Linda Cleary voted for the measures, and Terry Groden and John Lasko voted against them.
In the vote on Matson, board members said the differences stemmed from the timing of the vote and having it at the organizational meeting instead of a regular meeting. Those voting for it said previous contract approvals for the treasurer’s position have been done during organizational meetings.
DiCarlo said it was listed under old business because they have discussed the pact several times in recent months.
“We’ve been talking about, this isn’t any different than how it’s been handled before,” she said.
Lasko said it should have been scheduled for a regular meeting and specific notice of it given so any member of the public who wanted to comment would know it was on the agenda and have the opportunity to comment.
“At the very least, we should put it on a regular meeting agenda so people could say something if they chose to,” he said.
Herbster said that he had discussed it with Groden on the phone earlier in the day, although Groden noted, and Herbster acknowledged that Groden had expressed reservations about a possible vote that night. Herbster noted that he advised Groden that he should discuss any reservations about voting with board members and that it was possible it could come to a vote under old business.
DiCarlo also said Matson’s strong performance through the years merited acting on the contract.
“I have known Robert J. Matson for 15 years, since he came to work for the North Olmsted School District,” she said. “I can say unequivocally that in my 30 years of service on the North Olmsted board, he is the best treasurer we’ve ever had. I have worked with at least five treasurers, including William Bornhouser, who was considered an excellent treasurer, but Mr. Matson is more than an excellent treasurer, he is exceptional.”
She cited his recent handling of the $300,000 in water damage to Butternut School, finding the Plug Smart energy company and an anticipated $250,000 in utility savings, as well as more than $1 million in savings his first year and lower medical costs.
Lasko said his issue wasn’t with Matson’s performance, but rather the actual timing of the vote.
In the actual contract, Matson’s contract remained frozen at slightly under $100,000 annually and benefits. His contract has remained at the same level for the last four years.
In the school association vote, Lasko questioned the need for belonging to local and state school association groups as well as a national one. Lasko said belonging to the area ones provided better benefits and that much of the information from the national group could be accessed via the Internet.
However, DiCarlo disputed Lasko’s contentions, saying belonging to the national group does provide valuable information, saying the $4,000 fee is well worth it. She said the national group has information quicker in many instances on funding and trends that could benefit the school district.