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State Auditor General Rips Scranton School District in Scathing Report

SCRANTON -- The state auditor general blasted one of the largest school districts in our area, comparing it to a compulsive shopper, recklessly spending more than its income.

The auditor general released his audit of the Scranton School District Tuesday morning. He said he found serious financial instability and serious dysfunction rarely seen in school district audits.

In a news release about his audit of the Scranton School District, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said there is too much finger pointing and no one taking responsibility for anything.

The financial audit looked at the district from July 2012 through June of 2016.

DePasquale said he found to be "by far the worst debt situation of any school district in the state."

DePasquale said the Scranton School District ran an operating deficit of $25 million over four years, driven mostly by salaries, benefits, and pensions.

He said revenue isn't a problem, saying that is up 13 percent.

DePasquale said the problem is wasteful spending and general mismanagement, including retirement incentives rarely found in other districts even for employees with less than 10 years of service.

He pointed out a mechanic who didn't even work for the district got paid $672,000 over six years, and he and his wife got district-paid health care.

DePasquale laid out things he believes contributed to that debt and in no uncertain terms, said a lot needs to change to avoid a state takeover, using words you rarely hear from an elected official.

"It is long past time for the Scranton School District, administration, the board, and the staff to start acting like responsible adults and, to be blunt, get their heads out of their asses, and focus their energies on doing what is right for the district's 10,000 students and the thousands of taxpayers," DePasquale said.

DePasquale called it one of the worst school audits he's ever seen and told us why he thinks the district is $25 million in debt: years of overspending and failing to find lower bids of a bus contract.

A transportation company owned by businessman Louis DeNaples has held the contract for years and that DeNaples Transportation has been receiving a seven percent raise on that contract for more than a decade that increase was never approved by the school board.

School board members we talked to say they never even knew about it.

"I give district officials and the board an F for failing their oversight of a $26 million student transportation contract. If you want to know why an F, I'll tell you why an F: because there isn't a grade lower," Cy Douaihy said.

DePasquale also found that a mechanic who often did work on district vehicles had been receiving school district health and dental coverage for more than a decade. The insurance was dropped when the state started asking questions.

"The things he uncovered, really, we have been trying to uncover ourselves in the past two years. What the audit has done is to place a focus on those things we really need to pay attention to and to begin to address. They're difficult to do, but they must be done," said Scranton School District Superintendent Alexis Kirijan.

Kirijan attended the news conference. Only one board member was there. Cy Douaihy will leave the board later this year.

"The new board that will be coming in after the election. They have to make hard decisions and they have to be prepared to take the criticism from it," Douaihy said.

The newly formed Scranton School Board will vote on a 2018 budget in January. The district officials we talked to say layoffs may be unavoidable. They weren't willing to comment on whether they think school taxes in the city of Scranton will go up.

The auditor general said he is now referring his audit to the IRS and Pennsylvania Department of Revenue due to some of the discrepancies he found.

66 comments

  • THE_FACTS

    Taxpayers of this SD, DEMAND clawback of your WASTED funds. Trust me, Scranton is not the only SD wasting taxpayer dollars but this is the most heinous case I have seen. The following from the article is monsterous ,”DePasquale said the problem is wasteful spending and general mismanagement, including retirement incentives rarely found in other districts even for employees with less than 10 years of service.
    He pointed out a mechanic who didn’t even work for the district got paid $672,000 over six years, and he and his wife got district-paid health care.Let me make this perfectly clear, the cost controls of SB76 would end these shenanigans all across the state.”
    Let me make this PEFECTLY CLEAR, SB76 would end these shenanigans statewide by the cost controls in the bill. Demand your legislator get behind SB76 before these SD and the unfunded mandates such as the PENSION monstrosity bankrupt the entire state.

  • Taxpayers Ought to Know

    The school district I graduated from is smaller than Scranton, but every part of the district finances are on the district website available as a pdf download. Including the yearly budget, the yearly audit results, the yearly payroll, the yearly contract summarizes (employee name, educational hours, extra income incentive based on education if applicable, monthly salary), as well as the monthly payroll statements for everyone (superintendent to lunch part-time servers) in the district. I think taxpayers have the right to know this information.

  • Flabbergasted

    Everyone is so quick to blame the teachers. Are they reading the same article as I am? Everyday these teachers educate our children. They probably spend more time with the children than most parents do. They deserve respect. It is not an easy job, especially during these times. The report shows money being mismanaged by the administration and the board. The teachers don’t decide where the money gets spent. So stop blaming the people that our trying to teach our future leaders. I was raised to respect teachers and I was taught that “teaching” was an admiral profession so I am confused to why it’s such a big problem to pay our teachers decent pay and offer decent benefits. What’s the problem with taking care of the people who take care of/ teach our
    children?

    • Momofthree

      If the Scranton School District didn’t fail every single category every single year in the Grading Our Schools report, I wouldn’t complain so much about their salaries and benefits. The Scranton School District does a very poor job teaching our future leaders. I think they taught all of the incompetent people mismanaging the district. All I gotta say is, you can thank your greedy union boss. She has helped to corner the school district into having to lay off teachers. You can send her your thank you card along with a copy of your pink slip. The taxpayers in this city are poor and they just want more, more, more. Good luck with that.

      • McCracken

        Tolmides, you think the janitors and cafeteria workers are being overpaid? How dumb are you? The overwhelming majority of district employees are teachers.

      • Mary Alice

        Scranton School District employees do not have free healthcare, in fact it is the only school district in the area that has employee contributions and the pension is not free to the employees they make a contribution as well as a contribution from the school district. Each and every pay day the employees pay their portion of the healthcare along with a contribution to the pension.

    • THE_FACTS

      If the folks who claim it’s all about the children are sincere, they would be demanding true and pension reform in the terms of freezing all defined pensions at current benefit levels and switching everyone to a 100% 401K. The ludicrous pension and healthcare benefits are doing more harm to our children than any other issue. They are robbing children of needed dollars for education in order to stuff the pockets of those who claim their only interest is the welfare of the children! ” Well if it is, demand your union make the pension changes shared here and align to private sector healthcare costs.

      The work hard cry is so tired. Everyone works hard and trust me, in the private sector you neck is on the line every day. I know many who put in 2-3 hours a day of OT at NO Pay in hope of keeping their jobs.

  • Underpaidinscrantonpa

    Last time I checked, a teacher starting in Scranton makes around 32,000 a year. They pay for their benefits and get no paid off during the school year except for 10 sick days. Their summer days are NOT paid. They are salary. A teacher does not make “big” money until after year 15. The top paid teacher in the district is around 70k a year. A school administrator (principal) STARTS at around 90k a year. Some principals are making 120k a year! Plus, principals teach summer school and get paid for that! The superintendent makes over 150K a year! It is clear to see where the cuts need to be made.

    • Tom Smith

      365 day’s a year, if you work 5 days a week 52 weeks a year that’s 260 days. The school year is 180 days, weekends off, summers off, winter break off, all major holidays off. The pay for a teacher is 32k a year average you say. Working only 180 actual school days is 70% of what a normal work schedule where people don’t have the breaks teachers do. Roughly speaking if they worked the same amount of days that everyone else does they would make another 9600 a year roughly speaking based on that 32k salary u spoke of. That’s would make their salary just under 42k. Therefore I don’t feel bad for the teachers go get another job and make the 9600 back because at 32k dollars for 180 days and 8 hours a day it roughly translates to $22.20/hr. Which is more money than the average police officer, more money than and EMT($10-12/hr), more money than a Correctional officer, about the same as a veteran nurse working at the ER. Do you know what the difference between those positions and a teacher is they don’t get weekends off, they don’t get summer vacation, they don’t get winter break, they don’t get holidays off, and they have to work mornings, days, evenings, and nights, not to mention mandating. So don’t tell me how bad teachers have it. And yes all those positions require a college degree. So please when you try to say teachers have it hard just remember when the officer, Emts, and nurses don’t like their job they can’t strike like teachers do, they have to picket and still go to work where teachers actually hold the school hostage. Perhaps if teachers wanted to get paid more they would have gotten a job that was full time because only working 70% of what everyone else isnt full time. Pertaining to this article the superintendent, principals, and all administrators should be immediately removed from their positions and the state should appoint new administrators and take over the school. Sorry I know the truth sucks but I think kids should be in school more anyway. 260 days sounds about right and then you can earn 30% more pay and complain that your still underpaid.

  • Kyle Gilbert

    This is all a product of Courtright! Before you start pointing the finger at teachers.. don’t forget about the Scranton Tax case which Courtright lost and owes you tax payer 3 years over paid taxes..that’s right 3 YEARS WORTH! Actually everything in Scranton needs investigated !!!

    • TherealDave

      So I guess we shouldn’t have college graduate s teaching our kids? Our future.should be taught by drop out and ex cons right?

    • Tolmides

      25k? I could make more delivering pizzas…wait…I DID make more delivering pizza. Forget getting a master’s if all you will get is 25k. I takes some teachers 5 or more years of subbing before they get hired. No one will wait that long to get 25k.

  • LA 15 Seven Mary 3 and 4

    thanks go out to democrats, Common Core, and the NEA, and UNIONS ! a job well done now where’s my pay increase ?

    • Tolmides

      BTW….the Scranton School district is ATF, not NEA, Common Core doesn’t really affect the budget, teachers are a mix of liberal democrats and hardline republicans, and the Scranton teacher’s union agreed to contribute to healthcare and other benefits. How many other unions in Lackawanna did that?

  • Earl Bailey

    Retirement incentives never saved the city a dime! Just look at the ones the city offered their unions! My response to the state? Come on in! You’ve got a district to run!

  • Concerned Taxpayer

    It must be nice to strike, negotiate large pay raises constantly, receive benefits increases, and bankrupt the school district all in the argument of “we care about the children.” It also must be nice to have 3 months of summer vacation. I’m sure the district will do the right thing and give the teachers another raise and make sure the taxpayers foot the bill for it. GET RID OF TENURE AND DRAIN THE SCRANTON SD SWAMP.

    • Tolmides

      3 months vacation? Where’s that third month? Last I checked, it was July and August. You must not have kids in school.

    • Tommy

      I’m sorry you feel the need to take out your frustrations with low wages, lousy benefits, and general mistreatment on unions such as those that play a critical role in educating our children and making Scranton a better place to live, but have you ever looked at what led to a the dumpster fire that is currently private sector wages and benefits? Perhaps the lack of effort to fight for those benefits and drag down the rest of wage earners? Enjoy your trickle down economics, like I am. I have worked in a factory for my entire adulthood, and the only blame for my lack of financial security goes to my own lack of techinical advancement, and our collective lack of willingness to fight for our ourselves. Why so angry at the few who have? Envious much?

  • Chris L

    Incompetent board directors constantly re-elected because of popularity rather than knowledge of handling a massive budget plus greedy union = The disaster we are in. Stop by City Hall while you’re here too, will you please ?

  • Trumpisalosersad

    Teachers are woefully underpaid in 95% of the country. In NEPA, you have to know someone (to offer a bribe to) if you want a public school teaching job. Our auditor general did an great job here, but it’s time to call in the F.B.I.

    • Writer Girl

      So true. I am sick of hearing about “outrageous” salaries and having a pension and benefits. You want to retain professional people, then they need incentives to come to work. If more people had these things, the economy and county would be better off.

  • JD

    Everyone would like higher salaries, better benefits, and a great retirement plan! WTH do teachers think they’re so special that they should be treated any differently than anyone else who works for a living? Everyone that works should have the powerful Union that they have! Better yet, get rid of Unions! They’re just a political tool! My Union backed Hillary for cripesakes! Didn’t ask my opinion!

  • Gimmee More Teachers

    “DePasquale said the Scranton School District ran an operating deficit of $25 million over four years, driven mostly by salaries, benefits, and pensions.” And the teachers are striking for more. LOL.

    • MisterPL

      Teachers’ salaries aren’t the problem. People making six figures plus benefits who don’t even work for the district are the problem. Have an adult read the article for you.

    • Tolmides

      Actually, the teachers didn’t ask for more. They only asked to continue the current contract with some pay cuts, as recommended by the state-appointed arbiter. The previous contract had pay cuts in it too. So the teachers have already been hit and they haven’t replaced the teachers the retired for the last two years. If you actually have students in Scranton High, ask them how many kids get crammed into the non-Honors classes. Now there’s not even enough Honors teachers to run those course too.. Also, did you read where the deficits came from? If you actually read the report, there’s nothing against teachers. Transportation and mismanagement of funds is where the 25 million comes from.

      • Tom

        Did YOU read where the deficit came from? Here’s the quote: “the Scranton School District ran an operating deficit of $25 million over four years, driven mostly by salaries, benefits, and pensions.”

      • Jerry

        The author of the report himself is quoted as saying : “the Scranton School District ran an operating deficit of $25 million over four years, driven mostly by salaries, benefits, and pensions.” He wrote the report so I tend to believe him.

      • Jared

        @Tolmides. “Also, did you read where the deficits came from? If you actually read the report, there’s nothing against teachers. Transportation and mismanagement of funds is where the 25 million comes from.” The Auditor General himself said the deficit was caused by salaries, benefits and pensions. Since teachers make up the bulk of the salaries, benefits and pensions in the school district it’s evident where the problem lies.

      • Jennifer

        “overpaid” is a matter of personal opinion. The fact is that those 3 topics are where most of the money WENT. Auditors don’t give their personal opinion. They just state the facts. And if Scranton is spending too much money, then cutbacks will have to be made, regardless of whether anyone personally thinks teachers are overpaid at “32k” or the seniors at “70k”. (not to even touch on the topic of principals and superintendent)

    • beepbeep

      Check the auditor generals website for the audit done last year…….why do people keep saying audit Hazleton….I don’t see any issues with that school.

  • Say it isn’t so

    Corruption, nepotism, and fraud in Lackawanna County? In the school district no less? Say it isn’t so! I think the teachers should go on strike and the elected officials should just raise the taxes again, that always fixes things. WTH is wrong with people?

Comments are closed.