May 21, 2012 | By | Posted in Legislature

Lawmakers pressure PA school districts to use savings

Vereb suggests legislative cap to reserve funds

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Some Republican lawmakers are outraged about the size of Pennsylvania school districts’ savings accounts.

State Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, said for districts to consider laying off teachers and staff or increasing taxes instead of tapping their reserves was "ludicrous."
State Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, even suggested that the extra money be returned to taxpayers.
Many districts plan to use their reserve funds to pay for pension contributions, which are expected to increase from about $1 billion this year to $4 billion by 2017, though the state covers half of those costs. 
The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers, which represents public schools, estimates that about 70 percent of districts are using some of their reserves this year and is encouraging districts to use it for only one-time costs.
Even so, Vereb said he would consider drafting legislation to cap districts’ reserve accounts.
Bill Patton, spokesman for House Democrats, said many districts are struggling to make ends meet.
“Using emergency reserves to pay for basic annual operating costs is no substitute for properly funding public education,” Patton wrote in an email.
Vereb said there is one key difference — the General Assembly is not voting to raise taxes this year, unlike many of the districts with reserves. 
He added that the Legislature’s reserve fund was more than $200 million four years ago, and lawmakers have been tapping it to fund some programs recently.
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