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City School Board Approves Budget With No Tax Increases

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

For the third straight year, the Pittsburgh Public School’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a general budget without a tax increase.

The district is using reserve funds to cover a $15.8 million dollar deficit. That’s almost six million dollars less than last year’s deficit. Ron Joseph, the district’s chief operating officer, told the board Wednesday during its legislative session that increases in revenue from real estate income taxes, better cash management and money from the partnership with the Wilkinsburg School District are helping to chip away at the district’s debt.

“One thing that’s uncertain is state funding,” he said. “We don’t know what that will be for sure until we get into the next state budget cycle. But our long term financial picture has improved from just a year ago.”

The $554 million dollar budget is a four percent increase from last year’s spending plan, with nearly $7 million set aside for a new literacy curriculum for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms.

In his 90-day Transition Plan Report, Hamlet noted the district’s English Language Arts curriculum is nearly a decade old. He said bringing the district in line with PA Core Standards would be a priority for his administration for the 2017-18 school year.

The district hosted six curriculum review sessions this month with the public to evaluate curriculum options. Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said the new curriculum and books will, “ensure our youngest students are prepared with the core foundational competencies necessary to master reading, speaking, writing and listening, all essential 21st century skills, required to graduate college and career ready.”

Hamlet said money set aside for increased professional development will also help improve student achievement.

“Because we have a firm belief in our administration that if we focus on the people that we have in place right now – and we do have a quality and dedicated staff as backed up by multiple sources of data – that we have the will, we have to give them the skill, and then we’ll see increased outcomes for our students,” he said.

The budget also includes a line item for salary and benefits for a community schools coordinator. The board approved the policy in July that will allow for some schools to be social service hubs.