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Auditing error puts Reading School District $15.6 million in hole

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Jan 07 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 08 2013 11:29:53 AM CST

Reading school board: Auditing error

READING, Pa. -

The Reading School Board is trying to get a handle on a budget blunder that has caused a $15.6 million shortfall.

The accounting error was announced last week, and now the public wants answers. A special school board meeting was held Monday night to address the math mistake, but that does not mean people left the packed meeting satisfied with the information.

"That's why we wanted to come tonight, to hear it from the horse's mouth ourselves," said Gladys Mendez, a secretary in the Reading School District.

Mendez said she's not the only one concerned about getting paid and having a job.

"I'm just concerned what's going to happen down the road as far as the students and the employees," said Charlene Weiser, president of the Reading Educational Support Professionals.

How did the Reading School District think it had $15.6 million when it didn't?

"Not trying to throw anybody under the bus, I'm trying to lay out what happened," said Robert Peters, CFO of the school district. "Management made the entry. It was not caught by the auditors, and it was reported to the state."

"There is no cash missing," Peters told the school board.

Peters said the school district never got the money and someone misreported the money coming in from the state in 2010. Now it's time to focus on the future, he said.

"It has a profound impact on the immediate and long-term financial sustainability of this district and the children we serve," said Peters.

When he said it, it was as if the air was sucked out of the room. School board members said they're frustrated.

"Who is going to be held responsible for this error that's now impacting a district of 18,000 students and over 2,000 people who work here?" asked Karen McCree.

Peters said payroll would be covered, but the district will need to make mid-year reductions.

"Everybody said everything was just fine—we're $15 million not fine," said McCree.

Peters stressed no criminal activity occurred. He also said money in reserves, which has covered budget problems in the past, is down to just $4 million.