School District’s Financial Woes Continue

School District’s Financial Woes Continue

We wrote last summer about the placement of the Penn Hills School District into financial watch status under Act 141.  The District was the subject of a performance audit almost two years ago by the state Auditor General’s office that outlined a multitude of financial problems and issues with financial governance.  When the state Department of Education wrote the District on its Act 141 status it said that the Department would be in touch soon to schedule technical assistance.

A December news article noted that a consultant had been assigned to the District under the terms of the law (in the article an official from the nearby Plum School District–which is not in financial watch or financial recovery–gave an endorsement to the consulting firm but last week it was noted tax increases and furloughs could be a possibility in Plum).  The Department had to get some communication or indication of what appears to be a tough 2018-19 fiscal year for Penn Hills with furloughs and a property tax increase under consideration.

Another tax hike the size that is proposed (1.9 mills) will take the school’s millage over 29 mills and will follow increases of 1.5 mills and 1.25 mills in the past two fiscal years.  Both increases involved exceptions granted by the Department under Act 1 of 2006.  The Act 1 index for Penn Hills for 2018-19 is 3.3%: that means the tax rate could go up to 28.46 mills if no exception or referendum was involved; since the latter is very rare under Act 1 it is likely that another exception was requested.

If furloughs go through, they appear to be based on the language in the Public School Code that deal with program changes and not economic reasons as was added to the “Causes for Suspension” language.

All of this precedes the public hearing on the budget that will take place in May.