Pa. school money comes with strings attached

July 02, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania legislators came through at the last minute with more money for local schools in the 2002-03 budget, but there are so many strings attached some school officials aren't sure yet how they will be allowed to spend it.

The state budget approved Saturday increases the basic education subsidy 2 percent over last year, double what the governor included in the proposed budget this spring.

As part of the budget package, however, school districts can only use the money to reduce property taxes, restore cuts to educational programs or reduce or retire any debt.


Rick Vensel, business manager for the Chambersburg Area School District, said the district can expect to see an additional $175,000 more what it had budgeted.

But Monday he said he did not have the necessary details to make any decision on how the school district will spend the money.

"The budget requires all school boards reopen their budget by July 30," Vensel said.

The Chambersburg school board passed a $62.2 million budget Wednesday after postponing its vote for two weeks to see what the state would do with its budget.

"At this point, we need to find out the parameters of the law and exactly what they mean," Vensel said. "We have not been given the details necessary yet to make a decision."

Vensel said he hopes to have sufficient information by the next scheduled board meeting, July 17, so the board can take action on which way it will spend the funds.

The 2002-03 budget the Chambersburg School Board passed Wednesday included a 2.49-mill tax increase, and board members trimmed two teaching positions, three custodial jobs, a special education position and some staff development funding to save more than $225,000.

The district was also to mail out its tax notices to residents Monday, but Vensel said they are on hold until the matter is sorted out.

Waynesboro Area School District Business Manager Jack Kennedy said Monday he would have to wait until Superintendent Barry Dallara returned later in the week to talk about the increased funding.

"I just got in, and we haven't had a chance to talk about it," he said.

The board passed its $33 million budget June 25.

P. Duff Rearick, superintendent of Greencastle-Antrim schools, is on vacation until Monday, so school officials had no comment.

Officials at the Tuscarora School District and the Fannett-Metal School District were not available for comment Monday.

By law, school officials had to pass their budgets by Sunday and officials were uncertain last week whether the state would meet its own June 30 deadline.

A deficit and dipping into the state's "rainy day" fund sparked debate among legislators and delayed the budget approval process.

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