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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f771360000Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

State Pension Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

AP Photo/Chris Knight
Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, insists on systemic changes to state employee pensions before agreeing to any of Governor Tom Wolf's budget proposals.

Pick your favorite issue or cause in Pennsylvania: public education, services for the poor, tax breaks for businesses.

Chances are, there's going to be less money for any of these moving forward because the state's public employee pension bill is growing exponentially, with a current unfunded liability of $53 billion.

To keep up with rising costs, school districts across the state have been making tough choices — either cutting programs or hiking property taxes.

School budget wonks are reeling from the massive pension payment spikes that have been hitting lately.

In Philadelphia, for instance, the district has been cut to the bone, and because leaders lack taxing authority, there's only thing to do each year: beg and plead for more from the city and the state.

"When you have these fixed mandated costs, it handcuffs you in your ability to meet the needs of students because so much of your money is going towards a certain fixed cost item," said Matt Stanski, chief financial officer of the Philadelphia School District.

Read more of this report at the website of our partner Keystone Crossroads.