Licking County News

Disagreement on money owed sparks lawsuit

Licking County Educational Service Center sues Licking Heights for $284K

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The Licking County Education Services Center is suing Licking Heights for more than $284,000, claiming the school district has not sufficiently paid for the services the center rendered the district.

Last year, Licking Heights severed ties with the Licking County ESC in order to contract with its Franklin County counterpart, the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio.

Treasurer Jennifer Vanover said the lawsuit arose from disagreement about how much the district owed for the 2011-12 school year.

"We have disagreed with the 'true-up' calculations for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years," Vanover said. "While we have come to an agreement on the total for 2010-11, the amount for 2011-12 remains uncertain."

Also, Vanover said, the Licking County ESC receives unit funding from the Ohio Department of Education for the preschool students for whom it provides services.

"Up until this year, our students were served by the LCESC, which resulted in LCESC receiving various units of funding related to the education of Licking Heights students," she said. "We have asked the LCESC to transfer those units to Licking Heights since they are no longer serving our students."

Vanover said the Licking County ESC has refused, stating that the department of education is the only entity that can assign preschool units.

"We disagree with this stance, given that a transfer form is available on ODE's website, which would allow LCESC to voluntarily transfer those units previously used to serve Licking Heights students," she said.

During the December Licking Heights school board meeting, Vanover said, the board approved a proposed settlement agreement outlining what she described. The amount in the agreement was $275,000, assuming the Licking County ESC transferred the preschool units to Licking Heights.

"We would submit payment for the amounts due, in exchange for the transfer of the corresponding preschool units," she said.

The settlement agreement was rescinded during a special meeting Jan. 15, Vanover said, because a discrepancy was found in the 2011-12 calculation regarding a student that was reported as served in the 2011-12 school year. Licking Heights officials claim the student had withdrawn in 2010.

"The original action was rescinded so that the amount due to LCESC could be corrected," Vanover said.

Licking County ESC Superintendent Nelson McCray said ESC officials filed the lawsuit because Licking Heights had not fully paid up.

"It's about (Licking Heights) paying for the services that they had us do," McCray said. "They're holding us hostage on the preschool units."

According to the lawsuit filed in Licking County Common Pleas Court, Licking Heights owes $284,155.36, plus interest and other related fees -- almost $10,000 more than Licking Heights was prepared to pay for services rendered during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.

McCray said there was no discrepancy regarding the student who withdrew in 2010. He said a girl did withdraw at that time, but her brother, whose last name is the same, enrolled.

The girl's first name was not changed in the records to reflect that her brother more or less took her place, but, he said, a student was indeed enrolled as the records indicate.

"They were not overcharged," McCray said. "They owe us for what we provided services for."

McCray said the list of students is reviewed often and a discrepancy would've been noticed.

"We're not overcharging them," he said. "There was a kid in there."

Licking Heights Superintendent Philip Wagner said the district contracted with Central Ohio ESC because its services more closely matched the district's needs.

But, Wagner said, the contract was only one year.

"They should focus on trying to win our business back instead of focusing on lawsuits," he said.

Wagner said he was unsure why the Licking County ESC would sue when the school board approved an agreement for nearly the amount named in the lawsuit.

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