Refunds take bite out of West Mifflin Area School District budget
Tax reimbursements in the West Mifflin Area School District are expected take a $425,000 chunk out of the district's budget.
At a school board workshop meeting Thursday, district business manager Dennis Cmar said successful tax appeals by mostly commercial businesses have resulted in the district having to pay back $751,000 it collected in the current fiscal year.
Of that, most is owed to Century III Mall, which is to receive $617,000 back in overpaid taxes.
Cmar said the district has $326,000 in escrow that it will apply to the overpaid taxes, but “the rest is all unbudgeted.”
“It has a big impact, naturally,” Cmar said.
Picking up on a discussion that began at a meeting last month, board members continued to talk about the need for a private audit of district finances from 2004-10.
Board member Diana Olasz called for such an audit at a January meeting in response to an audit report that showed a $3.1 million deficit for the 2009-10 school year.
Olasz noted Thursday that other information has been circulated that put the deficit at up to $9 million, and that a detailed audit is needed.
Attorney Gary Matta from the district's soliciting firm Dodaro Matta & Cambest said he is in contact with a number of auditing firms about the matter and is gathering information about the scope and cost of such a financial examination.
“If money was not an issue, you would want it to be as detailed as possible,” said Matta, who is a former state auditor.
But because cost is an issue to the district, he said the board may be better off to go with a general audit at first and then proceed with a more detailed examination of specific areas of school finances based on the outcome of the initial report.
Matta said he would report to the board on the matter at its March meeting.
In other matters, resident Diane Stanesic chastised board members for overlooking expenditures by the district's former superintendent, the late Patrick Risha, that were outlined in a recent media report.
The report claimed Risha charged the school system $9,249 for meals while he was head of the district between November 2006 and November 2009.
It said some of the meals were charged at fast food restaurants near Risha's home in Rostraver Township, while others were charged at restaurants in West Mifflin.
Board officials in response said they never received detailed reports on how the superintendent was spending district money.
“When you're approving bills for payment, the back-up bills should always be there,” Stanesic said.
She said the district should follow the lead of businesses in the private sector, which don't allow executive officers to sign off on their own expenses, as Risha apparently had been permitted to do on his own spending.
Stanesic also said blame for the oversight also needed to be put on Cmar for not providing copies of the superintendent's bills to the school board.
School board president Kathleen Bracco said the school district will be looking at its policies on expense reimbursements and changing provisions that allowed the superintendent to approve his own expenses.
Bracco said board member Albert Graham is reviewing the policies of West Mifflin and other school districts to “tighten up and make sure it doesn't happen again.”
Bracco acknowledged she hadn't reviewed the receipts until the information about the former superintendent's spending recently came to light. During the meeting she suggested there wasn't a lot that the board could do about the past reimbursements.
“Mr. Risha is dead. We can't very well dig up his body and ask him questions now,” she said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.