The York City School District has misspent nearly $1 million in federal taxpayer money, according to the Pennsylvania auditor general.
In what state Auditor General Jack Wagner calls "blatant misuse" of taxpayer dollars, the school district reportedly spent $834,000 that never went to students and instead to unused items sitting in York City's storage room.
Items purchased by the district include 16 boxes of hula hoops, three greenhouses, Wii video game systems, dozens of laptops, expired tickets to Hersheypark and 10 boxes of stopwatches, according to The York Dispatch.
The auditor's investigation took place over 20 months across 2008 and 2009 after an investigation request by the U.S. Department of Education. At a news conference Tuesday, Wagner said the district participated in "deliberate wasteful spending," WHTM-TV reports.
The misspent funds come from a $4 million pool received between 2003 and 2010 through the federal 21st Century grants, which are to be used for before- and after-school, as well as summer, programs, according to the York Daily Record. The district overestimated the number of students that would participate in those programs and spent the extra money instead of returning it.
"This report identifies the kind of misspending of taxpayer dollars that the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and our country are sick and tired of," Wagner told the York Daily Record. "It's really spending taxpayer dollars without purpose."
The school district reportedly tried to return the surplus to the state Department of Education, but the office told them to keep -- and spend -- the money, according to WPMT-TV. District employees told reporters from several news organizations that they were regularly pressured by state officials to spend grand money quickly, for fear of losing it back to the federal office.
"Obviously the greater concern is this problem may not be just in one school district, and may not be just one grant program," Wagner told WHP-TV. "This mentality of use it or lose it, must change."
The use-it-or-lose-it dilemma is one other states have faced across the country. In May, New Jersey urged its school districts to spend what was left of $540 million in federal stimulus funds the state received in 2009. Likewise, Nevada was determining in June how to allot the leftover $9.7 million from its $434.4 million in federal funds before it was surrendered back to the federal government.
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