The 2021-2022 state budget passed by the legislature and signed on June 30 by Governor Tom Wolf, provides less than 1% more to the budgets of the four school districts in Perry County, according to an analysis of the funding of each district .
Overall, the state budget increased education funding by $ 416 million, without increasing state taxes, according to press releases from the governor and the legislature. This includes more than $ 915,000 in total for Perry’s four school districts, according to State Department of Education.
“It’s a budget that will help those hardest hit by the pandemic get the support they need, while making critical investments in our future by supporting the students and workers who will drive our economy forward in the years to come.” to come up.” Wolf said in a budget press release.
The new money the legislature provided varies between 2% and 3% more than last year for funding general education, and 3 to 5% more for funding special education at Perry schools. , depending on the state.
However, the total money is much less dramatic compared to the budgets approved by the districts for 2021-22.
For example, Newport will receive the most as a percentage of its new budget, according to the numbers. It will receive $ 219,631 in new money, or just under 1% (0.98) of the district’s $ 22.4 million budget.
Susquenita will receive new money representing 0.77% of her budget of $ 35.5 million. West Perry’s new funding is 0.69% of its $ 43.5 million budget, and Greenwood’s funding is just 0.67% of its nearly $ 16 million budget.
“While there is a lot to celebrate in this bill, it is disappointing that we have not been able to come together to fully meet the needs of Commonwealth schools,” Wolf said.
All district school boards approved tax increases in their 2021-2022 budgets which were completed earlier in June before the state budget was finalized. School administrators were not immediately available to comment on what the state increases might mean.
Local tax increases to cover the gap between state funding and the mandatory costs of operating school districts have been a painful subject in recent decades with many facets. Schools have to cover a higher percentage of pension costs, which contributes to local tax rates.
But districts have also seen the state historically cut its share of funding, requiring even more local tax increases to pay for facilities, teachers and technology. And then there are problems with the funding formulas surrounding charter cyber schools. School boards and administrators have said e-charters take money from districts, even though districts still offer extracurricular and extracurricular activities for these e-students.
These are questions that did not escape the two elected officials of the state of Perry County, both Republicans, who voted for the state budget.
“I am very happy that the state budget has made significant investments in education, including early childhood education, K-12 schools, vocational and technical education and colleges in the system of education. higher education in the State of Pennsylvania. It is telling, however, that many school districts in the 86th State House District have found themselves forced to raise property taxes despite additional state funding, ”said Representative Perry Stambaugh, whose district includes the entire county. of Perry and the Shippensburg area of Cumberland. County.
Stambaugh said he continued to be concerned about the impact of property taxes on homeowners, especially seniors living on a fixed income. He introduced a constitutional amendment, House Bill 927, which would eliminate property taxes to fund schools and replace them with a combination of increased sales and income taxes.
Similar ideas have been tried before but were eventually scrapped because the plans would have led to cuts in education funding or harmed poor residents through sales taxes.
State Senator John DiSanto, who represents all of Perry County and northern Dauphin County, is also in favor of such a measure.
“This budget makes record investments in our schools, provides essential government services and waives the governor’s proposed tax hikes on hard-working Pennsylvanians as our economy recovers from the pandemic,” DiSanto said in a statement. release when the state senate approved the budget on June 25.
Governor Wolf, a Democrat, had wanted to reform the state tax code to increase tax exemption thresholds. The proposal would have raised taxes for the wealthiest people, while lowering taxes for people earning less than $ 15,000 and couples earning less than $ 30,000. He said in his proposal that 67% of state residents would see tax cuts or no change, but Republicans called it a tax increase.
In the end, both sides found a compromise for the $ 40.8 billion budget that maintains the same personal and corporate taxes.
The budget also provides funds for infrastructure and more money to address the issues of long-term care and other facilities for older Pennsylvanians.
Jim T. Ryan can be contacted by email at [email protected]