KINGSTON — Wyoming Valley West School Board Member Attorney John Gill contends that, while the district did lose money by withdrawing from the West Side Career and Technology Center, the board wasn’t “wasting” more than $1.1 million, as a report from the state auditor general’s office claimed.
The audit report noted when the district refused to sign a letter of agreement with the center it withdrew from the Joint Operating Committee that runs the center. As a result, the district paid a higher non-member tuition per pupil until it decided to sign the letter two years later. The total extra cost was $1.15 million.
Gill said the math is probably right, but argued that the money didn’t just disappear. “That money went into a growing reserve that was at the center when we went back,” he said. “As that money is used, it benefits our students.”
Gill, who is currently chairman of the JOC, also noted that the school changed it’s admission policies after Wyoming Valley West withdrew, and that prompted a sharp increase in enrollment, which further drove up costs for the district as more students enrolled at the center.
The auditor general’s decision not to recommend any punitive action or attempt to recoup the money also supports the argument that it wasn’t wasted, Gill said. The matter was raised in a “compliance audit” that otherwise found no problems with Valley West’s books for the years reviewed, from November 2009 to November 2012. The state does such audits periodically to assure school districts are meeting state and federal laws.
The issue was raised in the audit report as an “observation” that was “unrelated to compliance.” While the auditor general’s office does not take action itself when it finds non-compliance issues in a district, it can and does make recommend actions to other state offices, such as the department of education or attorney general.
The audit report does recommend the district “ensure that decisions about increasing expenditures are only made after a thorough examination of the potential consequences” and “Consider the taxpayers’ expectations that their money will be used wisely.”
West Side Administrative Director Nancy Tkatch, who assumed that post after Valley West’s withdrawal and return to the JOC, said the center’s business manager was not available Friday and that she could not verify Gill’s argument about what happened to the $1.1 million, but she said it is logical that it would have ultimately benefited Valley West students.
“I think the lesson learned is that when you have articles of agreement in place for a career and technology center it’s vital to follow what they say,” Tkatch said. “Those articles have been approved by the state.”