Harrisburg School District discovers 'mystery money' - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Harrisburg School District discovers 'mystery money'

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The Harrisburg School District is reacting to news of a positive cash balance of up to $11 million dollars this year.

Chief Recovery Officer Gene Veno and school board president Jennifer Smallwood made the announcement at Wednesday night's board meeting, calling for a forensic audit if a significant surplus in the district's general fund is indeed discovered.

"If information was not given to us in June, I'm going to be very concerned about that," Veno said.

Veno said the extra funds are likely the result of an overly conservative 2012-2013 budget, and will translate to only positive results for students, teachers and city taxpayers. But he stressed that the money should not be spent frivolously, but as part of an amended recovery plan.

"I went to the public and I went to the unions and asked for concessions based on the information I was given from this administration. So I do hope the money comes forward."

The district's chief financial officer now has until the end of the month to nail down a specific amount, and present it to the board, Veno said.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, Veno blasted several board members for being too picky about vacant school properties. Particularly, the former Hamilton Elementary School building on 6th Street. He said a Pittsburgh developer wanted to turn it into affordable housing, but the deal is now "dead in the water" because the board demanded approximately $48,000 for heating and cooling while that developer vetted the property.

"The building is no longer available for sale and it's just sitting there and becoming blight in the city -- which city council is trying to get rid of blight -- it was a great opportunity," he said.

Board member Brendan Murray fired back, saying he's confident the district can find a better buyer.

"What I'm afraid of is vultures," Murray said. "I'm afraid of our district being taken up by people who are willing to pay bottom dollar for the properties that we have are worth the money."

There are currently five vacant school properties the district needs to lease or sell to unload annual operating costs.

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