City of Scranton: School District Financial Analysis

Report National Resource Network Scranton, Pennsylvania September 5, 2017 Finance + Operation

Between 2016 and 2018 the National Resource Network supported the City of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in convening and facilitating a task force of key stakeholders to create an entity to implement a downtown revitalization plan. Although the Chamber of Commerce had previously developed a plan for downtown, implementation had proved challenging. The Network partnered with the city to re-energize downtown revitalization by engaging with key stakeholders – including two hospitals and the University of Scranton – to spur investment in Scranton Tomorrow, an existing civic improvement organization that had atrophied to one permanent staff member. The goal was to create the necessary implementation capacity to ensure revitalization progressed.

At the same time, the Network – with a combination of federal and state funds – worked to develop a plan to stabilize the finances of the Scranton school district. In a September 2017 report, the Network identified a looming structural deficit of over $20 million and provided some initial ideas on major levers the District could use to address the problem. The Network provided the district with a number of strategies to consider, including:

  • Prioritizing the assignment of staff to program areas and the number of staff that can be afforded given fiscal constraints
  • Reducing staffing levels through retirements, attrition, or restructuring academic programs
  • Complete a full evaluation of the 2016 Special Education Plan and program and improve systems to track the number of paraprofessional positions
  • Managing growth in salaries through wage freezes; changes to wage and step patterns; or reducing or eliminating teacher extra duty pay
  • Continuing to reduce the growth in health care expenditures by adopting reference-based reimbursement; utilizing a district-wide discount card to incentivize employees to receive services from a specific provider; or eliminating spousal coverage.
  • Managing rising workers compensation costs by retaining a temporary safety officer to address issues or considering a one-time lump sum buy-out of claims.
  • Restructuring the existing retirement incentive program
  • Planning and structuring a district-wide professional development program or increasing opportunities for professional development outside of the ER&D program

As a result of the Network report, the state has provided additional assistance to the district – including the appointment of a Chief Recovery Officer and the announcement of over $10.5 million in additional state aid for the District.

This portion of the Network’s engagement in Scranton was led by Network consortium member PFM. You can read more here about the downtown revitalization plan developed as part of the Network’s engagement in Scranton; this work was led by consortium member HR&A.

City of Scranton: School District Financial Analysis