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Penn Hills School District seeks credit card, saying new safeguards will prevent abuse

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 3:21 p.m.
Penn Hills resident Betty Maguire made up these T-shirts she is showing off in 2016 after an audit turned up misuse of a district credit card.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
Penn Hills resident Betty Maguire made up these T-shirts she is showing off in 2016 after an audit turned up misuse of a district credit card.

Penn Hills School District — which cut up its credit cards two years ago after an audit showed they were being misused — is ready to put plastic back in its wallet.

The school board voted 7-1 Monday to apply for a PNC credit card. Board member Jennifer Burgess-Johnson dissented; Vice President Denise Graham-Shealey was absent.

“We need one because there are often emergency situations,” Business Manager David Roussos said. “There have been better prices that we could have gotten on items only if we had a credit card. The procedures that we are putting in place for card use will eliminate any chance of misuse.”

Checks on use of the new credit card, if the application is approved as expected, will include:

• Employees will have to check it out and bring it back at a specific time. In the past, credit cards were given to workers for unlimited periods.

• All purchases will be overseen by Superintendent Nancy Hines and Roussos.

• The bill will be paid in full monthly to avoid interest payments or additional charges.

“It's been difficult at times to make purchases when we don't have a district credit card,” Hines said. “This is a single credit card, very controlled. This is not a free-for-all. This is not everybody gets one to keep it to take it home. We're going to be very careful with this.”

Hines said staffers have used their own money and were later reimbursed for district purchases during the last two years. Roussos, for example, helped out by paying the bill when a gas line broke on a weekend, and a secretary bought some books.

Board President Erin Vecchio said she supports having a district card again because of the planned oversight on spending by Hines and Roussos.

“This will not be like in the past,” board member Pauline Calabrese said.

A 2016 audit of the district — which is about $170 million in debt largely due to construction of the elementary and high schools — turned up problems with how credit cards were being used as far back as 2012. The audit indicated one of the two dozen district-issued credit cards was authorized for “anyone in uniform,” a practice state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called “insane” in his report. In one instance, a former district employee used the card to buy a water heater for his home, the audit said.

Roussos said he would not know the interest rate or credit limit of the new card until the district's application is approved.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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