State docks Bethlehem Area for charter school’s missing retirement payment

Source: Jacqueline Palochko, The Morning Call, May 18, 2016

The Bethlehem Area School District is the latest school district to have its state aid docked when a charter school missed a pension payment. The school district had money deducted when the Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School missed a payment of about $115,000 to the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System. … Bethlehem Area had around $100,000 deducted from its state aid, and the charter school will cut a check to the district to make up for that, Taylor said. The district is up-to-date on its tuition payments. District leaders will meet with the charter school on Monday to discuss this situation … But the issue of who is on the hook when charter schools miss pension payments is being played out in the state Supreme Court. Last week, the court heard a case involving a shuttered Monroe County charter school that failed to make $210,000 in teachers’ pension payments. The Lehigh Valley has a couple situations going on that are similar. Trustees of the Medical Academy Charter School in Catasauqua have voted to close it next month because of low enrollment. The school is carrying $2.5 million in debt, including $103,472 in accrued pension liabilities, according to financial statements. The Northwestern Lehigh School District listed outstanding PSERS money owned by Circle of Seasons Charter School as a reason why it voted to start a process that could lead to non-renewal of its charter. During February’s meeting, the Circle of Seasons administration noted that its PSERS’ accrual was $121,000, going back to the second quarter of 2015, and was intended to be paid down in March. …