Lack of state budget affects local schools, human services
WALLENPAUPACK - Superintendent Michael Silsby, Wallenpaupack Area School District, filed a letter of protest to local legislators after Governor Wolf announced that gaming dollars meant to bring school tax relief would instead go to help the charter schools.
Pennsylvania General Assembly has yet to pass a state budget, over 100 days past the June 1st deadline required by the state constitution. Silsby said that if the school districts had to wait for their state funding, the charter schools should as well.
State gaming dollars, collected from casinos, is used towards school property tax reduction in the form of Farmstead and Homestead exclusions. Silsby said that the amount affecting Wallenpaupack taxpayers is $209,000.
He said that state code allows any state funds to be allocated to charter schools. Legally it was OK but no one expected it, Silsby said.
The state budget impasse is holding up funds for schools and human service agencies statewide. Wallenpaupack based their 2015-2016 budget on the level of state funding they received last year, not knowing how much if any increase may be forthcoming from Harrisburg. This totals $13,902,453 for Wallenpaupack.
In addition, federal money allocated to the school districts is funneled through the state and is being held up in the State Capitol logjam. This totals $987,239 for Wallenpaupack. Together, almost $15 million in Wallenpaupacks budget remains in limbo.
So far, this hasnt hurt the ability of Wallenpaupack to pay their bills and conduct their educational programs because local tax revenue is rolling in. Silsby said that fortunately for Wallenpaupack, the state and federal monies make up just less than 25 percent of their roughly $67 million budget.
Poorer school districts in the state that receive as much as 50 to 60 percent from the state and federal governments, are feeling the impact even more. These districts are already having to borrow money to make up the difference.
Silsby said that Wallenpaupack could wait until around March 2016 before they would have to consider getting a loan, should the problem in Harrisburg last that long.
He said this was very unusual to be in late October without having a state budget. Only one other time he recalled it being very late was during the administration of Governor Rendell. Typically the state budget may be late by a few weeks at most.
bull;bull;bull; Similar at Delaware Valley
What a mess, Ive never seen anything like it, said Delaware Valley School Superintendent John Bell. After having been an educator in New York State, he said he was shocked to see the problem Pennsylvania has with adopting budgets.
Delaware Valley is also waiting for their state money. Their total budget is around $75 million. Fortunately for them, only about 30 percent is from the state, roughly $22.5 million. Of that, two percent is federal dollars channeled through the state, also held up.