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Auditor General Jack Wagner Officially Notifies 4 School Districts He Will Audit Superintendent Buyouts
Philadelphia, Allentown, Gettysburg, Central Dauphin receive letters
HARRISBURG, Sept. 1, 2011 – Auditor General Jack Wagner today notified four Pennsylvania school districts that his department will audit provisions of their recent superintendent contract buyouts.
Receiving notification letters were the School District of Philadelphia, the Allentown School District in Lehigh County; the Central Dauphin School District in Dauphin County; and the Gettysburg Area School District in Adams County.
Wagner's two-page letter said the audits will be conducted in accordance with applicable government accounting standards, and would cover the period from June 2007 through conclusion of the auditors' field work.
Preliminary objectives will include, but will not be limited:
The letters followed Wagner's announcement last week that the Department of the Auditor General had changed its policy and would conduct immediate audits of superintendent contract buyouts. Previously, the Department of the Auditor General examined terms of superintendent buyouts as part of its routine school audits, which are conducted roughly every three years.
The policy change was in response to the terms of recent buyouts in the Allentown School District and the School District of Philadelphia. The outgoing Allentown superintendent is receiving a $50,000 contract buyout and the outgoing Philadelphia superintendent is getting a $905,000 severance package, which includes $405,000 from anonymous private donors.
The superintendent buyouts in Allentown, Philadelphia, Central Dauphin and Gettysburg are the latest that Wagner is scrutinizing. The seven other school districts previously cited by Wagner’s audits, whose buyouts cost taxpayers almost $1.4 million, were:
Wagner said that public school districts in Pennsylvania are grappling with great financial challenges, and superintendent buyouts send the message that they are not careful stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“Superintendent severance packages are questionable not only because they appear to waste money, but because they often lack transparency. As the state’s independent fiscal watchdog, I want to make full details of buyout available to taxpayers,” Wagner said.
Wagner made specific recommendations to the General Assembly in August 2005 to amend state law to reduce or eliminate the need for buyouts. Wagner has recommended:
Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts thousands of audits each year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s website at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
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