Pool funds spark SASB debate
COAL TOWNSHIP - Campaign politics surfaced during Tuesday's Shamokin Area School Board meeting when directors and a board candidate debated the allocation of donations for the high school swimming pool.
Nearly $25,000 was raised last year to offset the pool's operating costs, with people rallying behind an effort to keep the facility off the chopping block after the board floated the idea of closure as a cost-savings measure.
More than half of that money - nearly $14,000 raised by volunteers including board candidate Rich Kashnoski - is held in a private swim booster bank account. It remains there because no requests were made by the board to use the funds for pool-specific expenditures.
Kashnoski said he did not feel comfortable turning it over to the district's general fund, or any other fund, unless it was earmarked for use on the pool. If the board wishes to use the funds, it simply needs to authorize a pool expenditure and send him the bill.
The rest, more than $10,000, was deposited into the district's general fund, said board President Brian Persing, who helped initiate programs to raise the money. Although it went to the district's coffers, he admitted there's no direct accounting to show it was used expressly for the pool.
"I just gave the money to the business office," Persing said of money raised through a student walkathon and a pool sponsorship campaign in which businesses and others made donations. "I don't know where the $10,000 went. It was deposited into the general fund."
"Let me see proof the money was used for the pool. I need more explanation before I hand over $14,000 for shower heads," Kashnoski said of money raised through a swim camp for student swimmers with two former U.S. Olympians, a Chinese auction and tag days. "You still don't know where the $10,000 went. That's a prime example of why the district is where it is."
Superintendent James Zack said the funding raised through the initiatives Persing was involved in did go to the district. "We do know where it went. It went into the general fund," he said. "Accounting for the money is not the problem. It's in a lump sum in the general fund."
The conversation began when Director Treina Mariano, without naming names, questioned where money raised through the student swim camp was and why it hadn't yet been used for the pool. She said some showers are broken in locker rooms and other upgrades are needed. She said concerns were expressed to her by an elderly woman who uses the pool during adult swim classes.
Her comments were immediately questioned by Director Ron McElwee. He said the issues were discussed during executive session in March, and it was explained where the money was. He said the district had "watch" over it, and it's being held in a booster account as agreed by former Business Manager Steve Curran and board members.
"This is a political tactic used to single out a candidate who's running for the board," McElwee said.
"Absolutely," said Director Tracey Witmer.
"No, I'm not doing that," Mariano responded. "This has nothing to do with the election."