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Penn Hills School District gets $2 million state grant

Joe Napsha
| Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, 8:24 p.m.
Dillon Carr | Tribune-Review

The financially struggling Penn Hills School District has been tossed a lifeline in the form of a $2 million state grant.

The school system that has been burdened with about $170 million in debt for more than two years. The state Department of Education approved the Empowerment Grant to help Penn Hills tackle its financial problems this year, state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said Friday in a statement.

School board President Erin Vecchio said she had contacted Costa a few months ago, seeking his assistance in getting the district more state aid.

“I'm really pleased I reached out to Jay for help,” Vecchio said.

Costa said he met with school district officials, the education department, state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, as well as parents and others to move the special financial assistance forward. The grant is not earmarked for a specific use by the district.

“It is an extraordinary thing to be receiving these funds. It shows Harrisburg is willing to help us out here,” Penn Hills Business Manager David Roussos said. “This is a subsidy above and beyond what we historically received. This is great news.”

Costa said he plans to meet with state education officials this month to explore other funding options for the district.

“Since the district started experiencing fiscal distress, we have been searching for resources to help them regain strong financial footing,” Costa said.

Penn Hills was eligible for this funding because it was experiencing an exceptional financial situation, Costa said. The financial problems caught the attention of the Allegheny County and the state district attorney, who each have ongoing investigations of the school district. The district has blamed its financial struggles on bills that mounted as a result of the construction of a new high school and an elementary school.

“We must do more to help Penn Hills address its financial situation and move it toward solid financial footing,” DeLuca said in a statement.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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