Shuttered Schools Are Costly To Keep But Selling Them Can Be Unprofitable

When a school’s doors are closed for good, a building that cost millions to build can sit vacant and unused for years until it’s sold for a fraction of its worth.

The state of the economy, zoning laws and the institutional makeup of the structures all make schools a hard sell. And as long as the district owns the building, it has to pay for maintenance even if no warm bodies are moving through the hallways.

Doug Haring, a city real estate appraiser, said selling schools has become brutally expensive.

“Everything is a lot harder to do today, and that translates into more expense,” Haring said, referring to stricter zoning laws and municipal building code restrictions.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=396633

20 Pennsylvania Counties Could Receive Human Service Block Grants

HARRISBURG, PA As many as 20 counties could receive human service funding in block grants under a proposal that cleared the Senate Friday, delivering a portion of a change pushed by the Corbett administration.

Counties participating in the pilot program would have more discretion in how they spend state money for programs including child welfare, drug treatment and homeless assistance. The welfare legislation resolved another subject of budgetary dispute by postponing the end of the state-funded cash assistance program for one month.

Gov. Tom Corbett had championed the use of block grants for county welfare programs, saying that combining the payments would give counties more flexibility to target local needs. In February, he proposed replacing seven budget lines with block grants for all counties.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/state/20-counties-could-receive-human-service-block-grants-642601/#ixzz1zHgQ1yut

Extra Money For Distressed Schools Proposed In Bill

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sixteen financially distressed school districts across Pennsylvania, including the Reading School District, could soon be getting a bit of extra help.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a school funding bill Friday that includes extra money for school districts facing financial disasters.

The bill was expected to be considered by the full Senate today. If approved, it would mean an extra $3.7 million for Reading.

Reading is the only Berks County school that would qualify for extra funds.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=396446

Budget Crisis Forces Staff Cuts In Many Berks County School Districts

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Attrition.

It’s a word that has no doubt become quite familiar to school board members across Berks County as they look to shed expenses.

And the No. 1 expense for a school district? Personnel.

Cutting staff is a tough choice, but one many Berks school districts have faced. In all, 15 districts have said they will trim their ranks for the 2012-13 year.

Because cutting jobs has a big impact on people’s lives, attrition has become the preferred method.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=389391

University Of Pittsburgh Assessing Viability Of Titusville Campus

The University of Pittsburgh said today that effective immediately,the school’s branch campus at Titusville, PA will be placed under the direction of Pitt’s Bradford, PA campus in a realignment of administrative functions on both campuses necessitated by deep state funding cuts.

In a statement, Pitt Provost Patricia Beeson said the realignment “is a first step to reduce costs of operation and assess the viability of the Titusville campus in a time of dramatically reduced state support.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/pitt-assessing-viability-of-titusville-campus-634801/

Tamaqua Borough Council Makes Tough Decisions Rather Than Raise Taxes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Schuylkill County

Image via Wikipedia

Tamaqua, PA Borough Council decided it did not want to raise taxes to offset a $200,000 deficit in the 2012 budget.  (Imagine that idea Pottstown Borough Council)

And so, the cuts began.

Council eliminated random drug tests for borough police officers, dropped the DARE anti-drug program in schools for a year, laid off a police officer and deciding not to fill a vacancy in the streets department.

Council also hopes selling what one official called an underutilized community center will help balance the budget.

Read more: http://standardspeaker.com/news/mayor-center-s-sale-would-be-loss-1.1260511#ixzz1k872u0SE

Scranton’s Leaders Brace For 2012 Staff Cuts

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty’s reaction to staff cuts contained in city council’s 2012 budget was simple.

“We will do more with less,” Mr. Doherty said Wednesday, reflecting on how his administration plans to grapple with looming personnel reductions after lawmakers on Tuesday night overrode his veto of their $85.3 million 2012 budget.

Despite a wide-ranging list of cuts – including 29 firefighter layoffs proposed by Mr. Doherty himself – the mayor maintained there could be delays in nonessential services, but stressed garbage collection will continue uninterrupted.

“We have to live in the budget they give us,” said Mr. Doherty. “We are going to make it work.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/scranton-s-leaders-brace-for-2012-staff-cuts-1.1250766#ixzz1i37DSzKa

Harrisburg City Council Adopts 2012 Budget With 16 Percent Tax Hike

Harrisburg City Council tonight adopted a $54.3 million 2012 budget that includes a 16 percent real estate tax hike for homeowners.

The increase will tack on $50 to $100 in real estate taxes for most property owners.  A person whose property is assessed at $50,000 would pay $40 more annually in property taxes.  Property owners with houses valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $80 in taxes per year.

Council’s budget cuts spending by $1.2 million compared to the $55.5 million plan Mayor Linda Thompson introduced last month. Thompson’s proposal also included a 16 percent tax hike.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/12/harrisburg_city_council_adopts.html

Three State Universities Seeing Enrollment Decline

Three of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities are projecting enrollment declines.

Mansfield is expecting 5 to 6 percent fewer students than last year.  Part of the decline is due to high paying jobs in the gas industry.  Mansfield is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom.

Clarion is expecting a decrease of about 5 percent.

Edinboro is projecting a few hundred less students this fall.

Indiana Univ. of PA is expecting an increase over last year’s record-setting enrollment.

Students can expect to pay about 9 percent more than last year to attend one of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities.  An overall enrollment increase for the entire higher education system is expected, despite the three schools who are projecting lower enrollment.

More Secret Pottstown Meetings? Do We Ever Learn?

Hand with thumbs down

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I just read an article, on a local online media outlet, about the Pottstown School Board having an Executive Session that appears to have violated the Sunshine Law.  The board discussed cutting art and music behind closed doors after being told by taxpayers this was not their will.

As a student of history I feel it is incumbent upon us to study the past to learn from our mistakes.  Making the same poor decision repeatedly and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

I feel there are other areas that could yield cost savings that we are not considering.  Certain groups are considered “untouchable”.  Art and music are always the first thing a school board looks at cutting to save money.

If we look at the number of students involved with the music program in the PSD, we see a large group.  Not only do many students take part in the music program but our high school band and some other ensembles are award-winners and recognized for excellence.  They are a source of pride for our community.

Clearly, this decision is not supported by taxpayers based on the turn out at public meetings where this subject has been discussed.  Sneaking around behind closed doors is childish behavior and violates the LAW in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  But yet organizations in this town continue to engage in this counterproductive behavior.  How are we supposed to trust any of you???

Shame, shame, shame!  Two Roy’s Rants thumbs DOWN for this poor decision and the even poorer way it was handled.

Coatesville Area School District Eying Four-Day Week

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

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The Coatesville Area School District is taking a unique approach to avoid layoffs and program cuts.  The district is proposing a year-round four-day school week.

Under Coatesville’s plan, high school students would have their day extended forty-five minutes and elementary students would have their day extended eighty minutes.  Making this change would save the Chester County school district $1.7 million a year.

Coatesville Area School District has 11 schools and nearly 7,000 students.