Penn Hills School Board “Overwhelmed” As Projections Show Negative Balance Of $10M

Superintendent: Some Members Slumped Over, Nearly Vomited During Special Sessions

PENN HILLS (KDKA) — The money situation in one local school district is being called serious, urgent and degrading.

At a meeting Monday night, Penn Hills School Board members are talking about ways get back on track as projections show a negative fund balance of at least $10 million.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Nancy Hines says the board is overwhelmed. She pointed out that some board members slumped over and nearly vomited during the special sessions to discuss options.

Extreme measures proposed include an $18 million loan to cover debt and a likely millage increase. There is also an open investigation into the practices of the business affairs office.

Dr. Hines says any suggestion that former business affairs director Rick Liberto stole money is “absolutely not true.” There is no missing money.

Liberto is on paid leave during the probe.

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Dr. Hines declined to answer specific questions from the media, but she did read a lengthy statement prior to the vote. Here are some excerpts:

“Our preliminary conclusion is that we are in this situation due to having carried over a large sum of old debt into a new fiscal year, having relied on subsidy advances to replace new revenue that was used to cover old debt without closely evaluating the impact, having not completed the appropriate paperwork necessary to access debt service reimbursement once they were cleared for released, having grossly under-budgeted anticipated spending or not having budgeted at all some planned spending, having not adhered to zero-based budgeting principles. I know this summary is overwhelming as is the drastic steps we have to take in order to stabilize the system. I can confirm the board of directors was overwhelmed as well… It is not an exaggeration to say I have seen people near tears. I have seen bodies slumped over the table. I’ve seen people abruptly get up and leave the room so as not to vomit in public. I can say many of us have felt constant worry and have had many sleepless nights.”

Dr. Hines revealed that representatives from Wilkinsburg approached her weeks ago to engage in discussions that could offer $3 million to Penn Hills if Penn Hills would accept Wilkinsburg students.

The board said it would listen, as a courtesy, to Wilkinsburg, but that it was not interested in entertaining any offer at this time.

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