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Politics & Government

Late Budget Taxes Pennsylvania Schools

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Many Pennsylvania public schools are starting the school year with a worried eye toward Harrisburg.

Some are putting off bills. Some plan to borrow money. But Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said Monday he's not sure how much longer the budget impasse can continue before school operations are compromised.

"This is also a budget impasse after a number of years of reductions, year to year, so it's not just a typical impasse," Rivera told reporters following his appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg. "It's an impasse after years and years of reductions. So it continues to get much more difficult to serve students within their communities."

Budget deadlock in past years has prompted schools to warn that they might close their doors. Rivera said the already beleaguered Chester-Upland School District, with its multimillion dollar structural deficit, is likely the first school district that will have problems without a state subsidy.

"If something isn't done, they would probably be the closest to not having the revenue needed to open up this school year," said Rivera.

The state spending plan is nearly two months late. Without the finalized budget, the state is legally unable to pay its subsidy to school districts.

Negotiations continue Tuesday. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is considering legislative Republicans' offer to trade greater schools funding for changes to state pension benefits. Meanwhile, the House could vote to override parts of the budget Wolf vetoed.