News Column

Auditor says Wilkinsburg district has $1M deficit despite loan

February 19, 2014

By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Feb. 19--Exactly one year after borrowing $3 million to get through the 2012-13 school year, the Wilkinsburg school board heard from its auditors that it still has a $1.1 million deficit.

Auditor Betsy Krisher, of the firm Maher Duessel, presented the news to the board at its workshop session Tuesday night as she went over the district's annual independent audit.

The deficit will mean more cuts in personnel and programs in the cash-strapped district, said district business manager Phil Martell.

Ms. Krisher and school director Richard Bradford said the cuts the board made last year prevented another $3 million deficit. Mr. Bradford said he was not surprised to hear about the $1.1 million hole in the budget and that he considered it an improvement over last year.

To improve its financial situation in the past year, the district eliminated more than a dozen positions, sold its tax liens for $2.4 million and is trying to sell a closed elementary school, Mr. Martell said.

But more cuts will be needed to balance the 2014-15 budget and all contracts will be reviewed and cost-cutting proposals will be requested.

The district is on a three-year repayment schedule for the $3 million loan.

It made the first payment of $1 million plus interest in August 2013 and is scheduled to make the next payment this August, Mr. Martell said.

Shortly after taking the loan, the district was placed on the state's financial watch list.

The revelation about the $1.1 million deficit comes a month after the board canceled a contract with two New Orleans educational consultants who had been paid more than $500,000 in fees and expenses since the 2010-11 school year for professional development services despite the fact that students' scores on state tests -- traditionally among the lowest in Allegheny County and in the state -- dropped even lower.

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.

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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)


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