MACOMB COUNTY-When school districts contact out for services, they should have an accurate assessment of the job to be performed, clearly spell this out to the contractor, and have a pretty clear idea of what the cost will be. Otherwise, things can get out of hand pretty quickly, and even wind up in court. That's the lesson being learned by Romeo School District in Macomb County, which is being sued by a contractor for $1.5 million.

It seems the district couldn't open Washington Elementary for the current school year back in September because of the discovery of black mold, which can cause serious respiratory problems. Now that the school has opened to grades three through five, the company it hired for the cleanup job, Statewide Disaster Restoration, Inc., claims it hasn't been paid for $700,000-worth of cleanup work.

Romeo officials balked at this figure, and claimed the company did "unauthorized work." But Statewide is standing by its claim that it did what district officials asked, for a price that should have come as no surprise. The $1.5 million the company is claiming will cover damages and legal fees.

The expense of the cleanup, plus loss of funding due to declining enrollment, has ratcheted up Romeo's budget deficit to $1.8 million.