City Controller Releases School District’s Audit Amid Budget Woes
Call it either perfect timing or an organized plot to undermine the school district’s leadership, but City Controller Alan Butkovitz today called for “more financial oversight and auditing authority” over the School District’s finances. Butkovitz called the deficiencies “material weaknesses,” including a $15.3 million food-service loan that had no documentation of how to pay back the loan and a $42 million period adjustment from a bond swap that was improperly recorded in the books.
“Another material weakness was that the School District’s top staff responsible for preparing financial statements couldn’t even readily provide my auditors with a copy of the formal manual of financial statement preparation and review procedures. In our opinion, this is serious,” Butkovitz says.
He suggested the City’s Finance Director should have some involvement in the School District’s finances, among other measures, which comes as the school district just yesterday approved of a $2.8 billion “interim” budget that tries to patch up its $629 million deficit.
Expect scattered cat-fights between the school district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers over the next few weeks, because the new budget includes reopening union contracts to ask for more concessions,which has the teachers union enraged.
The budget also depends on an extra $75 million from the city, however, it’s still not clear where the city will find that money.
Councilman Bill Green was the only apparent Council person to attend last night’s meeting at school district headquarters. Students, parents and education advocates flooded the entire room where the budget was presented, and about two dozen who couldn’t find seats were forced to stand.
Green told the School Reform Commission to “stop the fearmongering, adopt a responsible budget, and treat your partners at the city and state like adults,” adding there are alternative options to cut other than full-day kindergarten and transportation.
“Mayor’s Communications Office has 4 people. So why does the School District’s Communications Office need 20?” he tweeted.
What was not brought up to cut was Ackerman’s annual salary, which includes her $348,000-a-year contract, plus a $100,000 bonus this year and a $65,000 performance bonus she received last year. That totals more than President Obama’s $400,000 salary.
Meanwhile, truancy rate remains out of control (9,645 students remain truant on any given day) and graduation rates, which stands at 58%, very modestly increased over the past four years (the lowest graduation rates, by the way, are 12% from Widener, 33% from South Philadelphia and 36% from Kensington Business).
If you care about reforming education in Philadelphia, you might want to check out the Philadelphia Education Conference this Sunday. The mission of the conference is to inspire a discussion on the state of education in Philadelphia, and co-produce a plan for educational reform. Some powerful peeps are rumored to show, including State Representative Tony Patyon Jr., Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, and State Senator Shirley Kitchen.