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State Budget Battle May Hit Poor School Districts

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service,
and The Post Publications

HARRISBURG PA – Pennsylvania state senators are due to return today (Monday, Sept. 18, 2017) from their summer vacations, but it’s unlikely they’ll find anything relaxing in the status of the $32 billion 2017-2018 budget. A revenue plan passed in July to support its funding remains in disarray, and the state treasurer announced he would not authorize more short-term borrowing to keep cash flowing.

Checking accounts were empty by Friday (Sept. 15), according to state Treasurer Joe Torsella, leaving Pennsylvania unable to pay its bills. On the same day, Gov. Tom Wolf reported he would delay almost $1.2 billion in Medicaid payments, and an almost $600 million payment due to the state’s School Employee Retirement System.

Dolores McCracken, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, predicted public schools could be among casualties of the budget crisis. “If the House (of Representatives) doesn’t act soon, our schools could miss $1 billion in state funding payments in September and October,” she claimed.

School funding in Pennsylvania depends heavily on local property taxes. Its probable that poorer school districts – under state guidelines, their ranks include Pottsgrove and Pottstown – may feel the most immediate impact, McCracken said. “We have districts that will actually worry about whether or not they can make payroll,” she added.

The Republican majority in the House is deeply divided over how to raise the money needed to pay for the budget it passed in June. Wolf favored, and the Senate earlier proposed, raising some taxes to help cover the costs. The House disagreed, and on Wednesday (Sept. 13) shoved through a revenue plan with no major tax hikes.

Without additional revenue, and with limited discretionary funds available, the state may be forced to make $2.2 billion in cuts to the approved budget.

Photo from Public News Service

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