For nearly a year now, News 13's Katya Fitzpatrick has been looking at credit card spending at carbon county public school districts. In May, she told us about spending at the Jim Thorpe Area School District and how the district had charged first class plane tickets to its card. Is this the norm at area school districts in the county? Here's what the Palmerton School District charges to its card.
The Palmerton Area School District keeps its credit card under lock and key. "There's one credit card. It's locked in the business office and only business staff use it to pay invoices," says Ryan Kish, Business Manager.
From January 2013 to December 2018 the school district charged nearly $79,000 on the district credit card.
"I just like it the way we have it set up here with just one card and the internal controls we have in the office," says Interim Superintendent Thomas McLaughlin.
Nearly a third of the charges were spent on hotel stays including lodging at Homewood Suites Hotel in Reading and Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Western PA.
The business manager tells us the charges were all tied to educational or athletic conferences.
"That approval is through curriculum and the board and the superintendent."
We reviewed dozens of documents like this one, which is an internal form staff members must fill out when seeking approval for a conference.
After careful review of the forms and the charges made on the credit card, News 13 was able to verify that 53 out of 91 hotel charges were tied to conferences.
"The hope is that when they attend the conference, they learn an awful lot and when they come back, they share what they learned with their colleagues."
What about the rest of the charges?
The business manager says 36 of the 91 charges were tied to school athletic events and those events don't require an internal form like academic conferences.
You may remember from our previous report that in the Jim Thorpe School District some board members, the former superintendent and the business manager used the district credit card 44 times at area eateries over a six year time span. The charges amounted to nearly $5,000.
We wanted to know whether Palmerton School District did the same. We found 4 charges to an area restaurant.
"There's no charges to restaurants on our credit card with the exception of Blue Shamrock which the board used in the past as a reorganization meeting. So new board members would meet with old board members and administrative staff and have a dinner after the reorganization meeting every year. But this year, we actually stopped that practice and we use our own cafeteria now to provide a dinner for staff members."
Similar to the charges we found on Jim Thorpe School District's credit card, most of the charges on Palmerton's card were also for educational supplies and memberships.
But we did find one charge that caught our eye.
In November 2018 over $15,000 were spent on Philadelphia 76ers tickets.
"The boys basketball team had an opportunity to play at the Wells Fargo Arena against Palaceaids and because of the time frame and buying the tickets for the kids to play down there we had to use the credit card."
Kish says parents later reimbursed the school. He provided a deposit slip and a copy of the accounting sheet to show the deposit had been made. The district was reimbursed all but $338.00.
Kish says the difference is what the district paid for the athletic director and coaches to attend the game.
And finally what happens with all the rewards earned on Palmerton's credit card?
"Any cashback on this credit card that's received gets put back in the general fund."
From the years we looked at, we can confirm that rewards were credited right back to the card.