Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg school district vows “full compliance” with state audit

The Harrisburg school district’s Lincoln administration building

The intergovernmental dispute that has rocked the Harrisburg school district may be coming to close, as the district on Friday night vowed to “fully comply” with a state-mandated financial audit.

James Ellison, the district’s newly appointed solicitor, sent a letter to state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera vowing to offer “read only access” to the district’s eFinance financial system.

“To be clear, the District understands its statutory and regulatory obligations to fully comply with the audit process,” stated the letter from Ellison. “Indeed, we respectfully submit that compliance to date with 99% (313 of 314) of the auditor’s information requests evidences the District’s commitment to fulfilling those obligations faithfully.”

The audit was prompted by several recent incidents, including questions about the use of federal funds, the district’s unbudgeted hiring of 37 teachers and the continuation of health care coverage for 54 former employees. Moreover, the state’s less rigorous annual audit for 2017 identified numerous issues and deficiencies, including a budget forecast that was incorrect by some $4 million.

Earlier in the week, Rivera had threatened to cut off the district from $10.9 million in federal funds unless the district fully complied with Johnstown-based Wessel & Co., the department’s outside auditors, which wants remote access to the financial system.

The district had balked at the request, claiming that doing so would expose sensitive employee information. Later, union representatives said that they supported a full audit of the system, which, according to the letter, relieved the district of liability.

The letter, attached below, also laid out the district’s version of events, in which Ellison claims that school administrators have always tried to comply with the department’s demands. Nonetheless, a majority of the school board recently refused to endorse a resolution requiring district compliance.

The dispute has led some community and government leaders to call for state receivership, in which the state would take direct control of the district. Meanwhile, the issue has become the latest hot topic in the race for school board. In that race, eight challengers and four incumbents are vying for five seats in the Democratic primary, which is slated for May 21.

Letter to Secretary Pedro Rivera dated April 26, 2019

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