Financial records important to the accounting of Harrisburg School District are missing from its main office and accounting software, officials announced Tuesday.
That discovery was made within the first 24 hours of a contracted partnership with Montgomery County Intermediate Unit that allowed its experts access to the failing Harrisburg district, which has been struggling financially and academically for years.
“We have to go through the financial system immediately because right now we have no confidence, little confidence in any of the dollar figures the we have available to us,” said John George, the intermediate unit’s executive director, who will serve as Harrisburg’s financial recovery plan service director. “That’s not a good position to be in.”
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By Monday night, that initial look at finances had already revealed that some financial records that are “very important” seem to be missing from the school district, George said.
George said he could not comment on exactly which records are missing or whether the missing records will be reported to law enforcement.
Without all those records, George said, it is impossible to know exactly how much money the district has or what their actual expenses are.
Not all records are kept within the district’s electronic accounting system, he said.
But that system will allow for a baseline from which intermediate unit employees can work.
“We need to go through paperwork piece by piece and rebuild the system,” George said.
George said district and intermediate unit officials will work with state officials, who are now conducting an audit of the district’s finances.
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Getting an accurate picture of those finances is vital to moving the district back into success. Financial work must be completed before staffing can be addressed, George said.
“Then we can start making sure that we have competent staff in place and that they are compensated fairly,” he said.
The Harrisburg district entered into a three-year contract with the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit last month after a Dauphin County Judge approved a state takeover of the district, which is designed to bring it back into success. The start date for that partnership was Monday, July 1.
The contract with the intermediate unit — at $1.4 million annually — was put into place by new district Receiver Janet Samuels, who was appointed to the role of chief administrator and decision-maker when the state takeover was announced.
Under the contract, officials from the intermediate unit, including George, will provide all business office and human resource department functions.
Most of those intermediate unit officials will work full-time in Harrisburg, George said.
Samuels previously served as superintendent in Norristown, a Montgomery County district, but on Tuesday, she stressed that the new partnership is based on the past success of the intermediate unit and George.
George led a team that previously pulled off what the sate auditor general called a “miraculous” financial and academic recovery in Reading School District, making drastic financial improvements in only a year.
Samuels also pointed out that the Harrisburg district has been under a financial recovery plan since 2012.
“So that means more than a generation of children have been impacted by the financial status and all the events that have occurred here in Harrisburg School District,” she said.