Audit: Chester Upland district ended year with $2 million surplus

Posted: February 24, 2013

The academically and financially challenged Chester Upland School District ended the last fiscal year with a $2 million surplus, according to a newly released audit report.

But the surplus was primarily the result of a $20.5 million settlement the Delaware County district received from the state in a suit over funding, according to the accounting firm that performed the audit, released Thursday night.

Other factors included a decrease in expenditures because of declining enrollment, related staff reductions, and improved tax collection, said Chris Herr, manager of Maillie, Falconiero & Co.

In the prior fiscal year, the district ended up with a $15.5 million deficit.

"At this point in time, we are optimistic we will complete the year pretty close to budget," said George Crawford, the district's chief financial officer. However, the district budget assumes $1.1 million in revenue from property sales, he said.

Still, that is better news than the $3 million deficit that had been projected for the end of the current school year. That figure was cited in the district's recovery plan. released in November. The deficit was projected to grow to $180 million by 2017-18 if no action was taken.

Crawford said the predicted $3 million shortfall was no longer valid.

The district is being run by court-appointed receiver Joseph Watkins, Chester Upland's former state-appointed chief recovery officer.

Watkins' recovery plan calls for the district to improve academically and lure back students it has lost to charters and other schools. More schools will consolidate, staff will be reduced, and some class sizes will grow.

If the district falls to meet federal progress goals by the end of the 2014-15 academic year, the recovery plan calls for the schools to be put under outside management such as charter or cyber schools or school management companies.

Contact Rita Giordano at 610-313-8232, or on Twitter @ritagiordano.

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