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PA School Districts Await Budget Passage

The Associated Press

Pennsylvania school districts are more concerned with “how much” than “when” regarding passage of a fiscal budget and any new state appropriation they might receive.

“In general, initially, if a budget does not pass by June 30, districts won’t find themselves in dire situations,” said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Budgets tend to be front-loaded for districts, he said.

"They are able to send out their tax bills, which happens around July 1 or so," Robinson said. "That money would still be coming in, even if a [state] budget hasn’t passed and the districts might be delayed in getting whatever state subsidy has been approved.”

The Republican-controlled legislature is expected to pass a budget along party lines without taking a vote on Gov. Tom Wolf’s $29.9 billion spending plan. Wolf proposed increasing funding for school districts by $400 million – about 7 percent – to $6.13 billion in the new fiscal year.

Wolf’’s budget called for increases in the personal income tax and the sales tax while levying taxes on Marcellus Shale gas, cigars, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.

In 2009, a stalemate between then Gov. Ed Rendell and the Republican-controlled legislature delayed approval of a budget by more than three months. A similar stalemate would put the pinch on schools, Robinson said.

While Pennsylvania’s budget might very well be late, Robinson notes that under state law, school districts must have their budgets in place by June 30.

“So they are working on assumptions and guesses at this point, not knowing what kind of state subsidy they’re going to get," he said. "Most districts will plan conservatively not knowing what they’re going to get and then hopefully they might get a little bump in what they were expecting once a final budget is passed.”

And there’s some consolation for school districts if the state budget is late.

“Districts by law do get interest payments on delayed subsidies from the state," he said. "So, if they would miss their August (and) September payments, once those finally do come due, they would get interest.”