‘It’s a Little Bomb’

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RUSSELL, Pa. – Following an analysis of Governor Wolf’s proposed basic education funding plan, the Warren County School District is sending a letter to legislators urging them to reject the plan.

According to the district’s analysis, the proposed budget could cost school districts across northwest Pennsylvania millions of dollars.

“If you read the general summary, I was like hey you know that’s not so bad they’re talking our talk,” WCSD board member Joe Colosimo said during Monday’s Finance Committee meeting. “And then we started digging deeper into this formula and you realize that it’s a little bomb that they hid in there. And amongst all this superfluous goodness and fun hearted stuff, there’s this disaster.”

A motion was passed, a rarity for committee meetings, to send a letter and a copy of the data analysis to the General Assembly urging them to reject the plan.

“Only through his proposed new/increased taxes does Governor Wolf’s budget proposal keep our districts’ state funding the same,” the letter reads. “Northwestern Pennsylvania is filled with small communities where industries have departed. We do not have robust tax bases that allow us to generate large property tax collections.”

According to the analysis, if the district is unable to generate the new tax revenues, it would result in a loss of more than $10 million in BEF funds over last year. The only other district included in the analysis with a higher revenue loss is Penncrest which would be out more than $12 million.

“I think that spreadsheet is very compelling,” board member Art Stewart said. “Once we dug into the numbers and looked at all the northwestern school districts, my goodness. What a shocking quantity of school districts that suffer the same terrible impact that we suffer. Northwestern Pennsylvania would be devastated by the immediate implementation of this formula.”

Stewart said he confirmed the district’s numbers with the director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools to make sure they were “on solid ground.”

“At the end of the discussion we asked him this question, ‘Is our spreadsheet on solid ground?'” Stewart said. “And he came back and he said, ‘No, sir. It’s on concrete.’ So, from that, I have confidence that we’re not telling a skewed story in that spreadsheet and that the radical numbers are in fact as radical as they appear.”

The Finance Committee unanimously passed the motion to send the letter to the General Assembly-specifically to the Education, Appropriations and Agriculture Committees-and other board members favored the response as well.

“I appreciate the work that went into this,” board member Marcy Morgan said. “You’ve made a compelling argument on two points. And you’ve offered evidence of your point. And so they can’t look at it, and not understand what we’re going to go through.”

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