Financial Recovery Plan For Scranton Schools Could Come This Spring

January 17, 2019

A recovery officer could work with the Scranton School District by early February and a financial plan could be in place as early as this spring. The day after the state moved the district one step closer to receivership, officials learned more Thursday about the financial recovery timeline. As the district’s deficit continues to grow, the Department of Education placed Scranton in financial recovery on Wednesday. The status provides the district with expertise from a yet-to-be-named recovery officer while the school board retains ultimate control. If the district’s finances do not improve under recovery or the board refuses to follow the plan developed with the recovery officer, the state could take control of operations through receivership. “I’m not looking at this as a bad thing,” Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., said Thursday. “It’s a really good thing for the Scranton School District. It provides us with more technical assistance and ways to gather input and engage the community and to share really important information that people may not know about the district and the challenges we have.” The district has until Jan. 30 to appeal this designation to Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. If an appeal is not filed by then, the state will appoint a chief recovery officer within five days. Within 90 days, the officer will develop a financial recovery plan, though extensions may be granted. The board will discuss options during the Jan. 28 work session, Kirijan said. The work session is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the board room of the Administration Building, 425 N. Washington Ave. All school directors reached by The Times-Tribune said they welcome the assistance and have no plans to appeal the decision. “The state has our best interests in mind, and it’s what we have to do to move forward,” board Vice President Robert Casey said. The state put Scranton on financial watch in June 2017, allowing the district to receive technical assistance from the state on financial and budgetary issues. Scranton, which last year had the largest accumulated deficit in the state, joins Harrisburg, York City, Duquesne City, Chester Upland and Penn Hills in recovery. Since 2013, Scranton has accumulated a general fund deficit of $28.6 million and has borrowed money and used other one-time revenue to pay bills. A recovery officer will realize the district receives inadequate and inequitable funding from the state, Director Bob Lesh said. Compared to other districts with similar demographics statewide, Scranton receives far less. “Any help is good help,” Lesh said. “To have someone come in and assist us, I think it might be a great idea.” Kirijan said a recovery officer will find the district already made extensive budget cuts and worked on recommendations made by PFM, the consulting firm working with the district. “Bringing a financial recovery officer in is an asset to the district,” Kirijan said. “It’s a fresh set of eyes looking at the work we’ve already done and the work that we’re still planning on moving forward with. And, then we’ll have this person help us look at more ideas and more ways to get back to where we need to be.” Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter

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