As budget impasse effects continue to be felt, another funding effort fails

As legislators Wednesday learned about the impact of the state budget impasse on schools and the Auditor General continued to provide updates on the costs of the budget impasse to Pennsylvania’s school districts, the Senate failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto of a stopgap funding measure passed in September.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee began Wednesday’s budget-related discussions by hearing from schools on the impact of the ongoing state budget.

"Every day, the negative impact on school districts becomes more widespread," said William LaCoff, president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association in written testimony. "In short, many districts are exhausting their options in order to keep the school doors open despite the missing state funds."

Their position was buttressed by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who continued to sound the alarm bell on the amount of borrowing schools are having to do in order to make ends meeting during the now 120-day budget impasse.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Auditor General: School districts feel like the Department of Education does not help them

Auditor General: School districts feel like the Department of Education does not help them

In releasing a much anticipated performance audit of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the state Board of Education Tuesday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said a culture within the department has existed over the last several years that leaves local school districts feeling as though they have been forgotten.

DePasquale pointed out his audit revealed—among other things—that PDE has left 561 academically challenged schools (with around 310,000 students) without adequate support.

“It is absolutely stunning…that basically, the Department of Education is overlooking some Title 1 schools and every poor performing school that is not Title 1,” he said. “It does worry me that it appears the department is doing the bare minimum to get by.”

Along with the failure to provide adequate support, the audit found three other major failures, including the lack of an updated master plan from the State Board, poor hiring practices with regard to annuitants, and a failure to monitor special advisors and assistants.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views

With stopgap budget vetoed, negotiators resume pointing fingers for failed budget agreement

Gov. Tom Wolf didn’t offer any surprises Tuesday as he followed through on his promise to veto the stopgap budget plan passed by the Republican controlled General Assembly.

Gov. Wolf said he vetoed the bills as soon as they were delivered to him on Tuesday.

“All of us want a budget, we don’t want stopgaps, we don’t want continuing resolutions, Pennsylvanians deserve a budget and one that actually works and funds schools,” he told a small gaggle of reporters awaiting his exit from the Capitol Tuesday afternoon.

“If we don’t do this right, we’re going to have a $3 billion deficit next year and we’re not going to be able to fund schools, we’re going to have huge cuts, and that’s not going to work."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Auditor General tries to light a fire under budget negotiations

Auditor General tries to light a fire under budget negotiations

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale had one message for budget negotiators Tuesday: his office is watching.

“If you don’t get a budget deal done, the Auditor General is going to continue to hammer the lack of wasting money, not getting the deal done, and our kids are going to get hurt in the process,” he said.

The message came in a press conference where DePasquale announced that for the first time in the history of his office, the Department of Auditor General will be taking into account the costs being incurred by school districts as a result of the stalemate.

Accordingly, he said, his office is directing school district auditors to include an analysis of the cost of the budget stalemate during the course of normal school district audits.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
Municipal pension reform work continues amid budget stalemate

Municipal pension reform work continues amid budget stalemate

Legislators sponsoring bills to reform municipal pensions are continuing their work to get to compromise legislation while others are focused on resolving the Commonwealth’s budget stalemate, which is now a month old.

While Senate Bill 755 and House Bill 316 moved out of their respective standing oversight committees earlier this summer, the bills received little attention neither in the immediate run-up and aftermath of the June 30th budget deadline nor in the subsequent session days in July.

According to Rep. Keith Grenier (R-Lancaster) and Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair)—sponsors of the aforementioned legislation—the two have been meeting to prepare amendments to the legislation they’ve offered that are largely in line with a task force report on the issue delivered by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this year.

“There’s still quite a bit of action behind the scenes with this [and] we’ve actually been sitting down with some of the key parties,” said Rep. Greiner. “I think the key, kind of what we’re really looking at and focusing at, is Auditor General DePasquale’s task force report on municipal pensions.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
Categories: News and Views
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