Update: Harrisburg School District has 'shared risk' recovery plan
Gene Veno, the chief recovery officer for the Harrisburg School District, presented his recovery plan today for the district.
The plan includes reducing a proposed tax increase for 2013-14 to 3.5 percent from 9.7 percent, reducing proposed 10 percent employee costs to 5 percent over the next two years and freezing salaries in the third year.
During the fourth and fifth years of the plan, employees would see an overall wage increase of 1.5 percent and then 3.5 percent, respectively, according to the plan.
If the school board accepts the plan within 30 days, the state could make available up to $6.4 million in no-interest loans to aid in the immediate recovery of the district.
The district has until Dec. 12 to adopt the plan, or state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis could petition the court for appointment of a receiver.
Veno also wants to expand the district's cyber school. He is not calling for any furloughs or school closings, but he does want to immediately reorganize the K-8 grade structure as part of the academic plan.
The plan recommends evaluating five school buildings that have been closed in recent years, with the aim of reducing operating costs through possible sale.
In addition, Veno said that, when many of the district's bonds come due in 2014, he will look to reorganize that long-term debt.
Veno said the plan is about right-sizing the district and called it one of "shared risk" as it relates to employee wage cuts.
The state’s supplemental loan of $6.4 million would help cover the cyber school expansion to K-12, instead of just for high school, Veno said.
It also would be used to hire a CEO to manage non-instructional district services, which would free the superintendent to focus entirely on leading the district to academic excellence, Veno said.
Veno said he believes the financial plan can get the district back to positive cash flow in the 2016-2017 school year. Improving revenue collections and grant writing, which could secure additional state and federal resources, are part of that effort.