Mar. 31, 2011

Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) today testified before the House Appropriations Committee on the impact the 2011-12 budget could have on local school districts. 

The following are his remarks: 

Chairman Adolph and members of the Appropriations Committee:  

Thank you for giving me a moment to share my thoughts and concerns as we undertake this critical attempt to address the budget blueprint given to us by Gov. Corbett.  

Let me be clear. I fully understand that Pennsylvania is at a crossroads. We must restructure the state’s budgetary house by avoiding the fiscal games that left us with a $4 billion budget hole.  

So let me thank Gov. Corbett for presenting an honest budget that does not rely on broad-based tax increases, irresponsible borrowing, or dishonest revenue projections.

Recognizing his proposal is simply that – a proposal - I respectfully request you reconsider some of the budget cuts proposed in basic education.  

Specifically, I would ask you to review line 230 in the proposed budget – the School Employees’ Social Security Reimbursement. The Governor has proposed a dramatic change in the formula directing these funds. This change would cause an unanticipated and significant loss in revenue for many districts.  

While I agree with the Governor that there are two sides to the budget ledger and we must demand our school districts address perpetually rising expenditures – we must also be fair in what we ask of them.  

Specifically, the Governor proposes cuts to the five school districts of the 151st Legislative District by $4.8 million in just this one line item. Statewide the overall reduction is listed as $21,115,000 meaning my district would endure 22.73% of the cuts proposed statewide. To give you an idea of the level of state funding my school districts receive, in 2008-2009 they ranked 463, 474, 477, 478 and 486 in per pupil funding statewide.  

Truthfully, they don’t ask for nor receive much from the state already.  

Regarding the obligation the local school districts have to rein in spending, two of the five school districts are working without teacher’s contracts – one for over a year and half and the other for about nine months. These boards are trying to hold the line on spending and have been trying to manage their budgets responsibly.  

Another one of my school districts, the North Penn School District, is expected to lose an additional $2.28 million – the most in Pennsylvania- from four just this one line item. This district ranked 477th in revenue from the state to fund education in 2008-2009 and has reduced the overall number of teachers each year since 2008-2009.  

I know there has been much discussion concerning the proposed increase in funding for the Department of Public Welfare. I’m also aware of the series of bills – I’m the Prime Sponsor of one of them – to address the waste, fraud and abuse cited by the Auditor General in his report last year. I believe we should demand the Department of Public Welfare eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse and become accountable to the taxpayers - just as we are doing with public education.  

When constituents confront me with the issue of the reduction in funding to our schools I routinely explain how school districts were aware of the temporary nature of the stimulus funding and therefore should have managed their finances knowing that revenue stream was disappearing.  

However, the districts were not aware of the loss in revenue in the School Employees’ Social Security line item. While there may be merit to discussing the future of this reimbursement to schools for the hiring and salary decisions they make, this unexpected change in the administration’s policy would negatively and, in my opinion, unfairly affect these schools.  

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address you today and for taking my concerns into consideration when you craft the final budget.  

Thank you.  

State Representative Todd Stephens
151st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  David Foster