Editorial: DeLuca plan too late for Penn Hills, not for other districts
If nothing else, Penn Hills can be a cautionary tale.
The school district’s $172 million money pit of debt might not be getting any shallower but it has prompted attention in Harrisburg.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale had already issued a 2016 report that called Penn Hills out for “mismanagement and lack of oversight” and that prompted the district’s financial pitfalls. That was followed by an Allegheny County grand jury investigation in which no one was indicted but the district was tarred for the negligent actions that brought on “economic ruin.”
It seems DePasquale and state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, are looking to make sure that won’t happen again. The two have cut the ribbon on the “School Board and Administration Financial Reform Package,” although it has yet to be introduced.
The bills would do things like require a referendum on borrowing 50 percent or more of a district’s base limit, and changing the way that limit is calculated to include expenses instead of just revenues.
It’s hard to believe that part has slipped by for this long. Anyone with a checkbook and a household of bills to pay should understand that the money coming in is only half the story. The commitments for money going out have to be less to make things balance. Perhaps a remedial math class would be helpful for the people making the rules.
But lets move on to the penalty phase. Another part of the package would allow for increasing the burden of responsibility on the decision makers.
The plan is to reset the statute of limitations the way it has been done in sex abuse cases, starting the clock at the discovery of a violation instead of when it was committed. It would also make officials lying to the Department of Education a criminal act.
Penn Hills School Board President Erin Vecchio called the proposals “garbage” and said they were too late to help the district.
That’s true. You can’t stop someone from falling into a hole when they’ve already hit the bottom. But it’s never too late to learn from a mistake, and maybe seeing where things went wrong at Penn Hills can help the state keep other districts — and their taxpayers — from taking the same tumble.