Governor Rendell’s Proposed Budget Includes $354 Million in Increased School Funding

Governor Ed Rendell released his 2010-11 budget proposal yesterday. His budget proposes over $11 billion of taxpayer funding for educational services, which includes an increase of $354 million for school funding. Several reasons were cited for the funding increase including advances in achievement scores. In Governor Rendell’s proposed budget, education support services would receive $31.8 million in funding; basic education spending would receive $9.5 billion, for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade; and $1.8 billion for higher education with nearly $424 million of that allotted for financial assistance for students. State-aided private schools – including Drexel University and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia – would lose all their funding under the proposal. The exception is the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak offered that Pennsylvania was leading the nation in achievement improvements. Mr. Zaharchak emphasized a focus on increasing enrollment at a pre-kindergarten level. He feels that that there is an adequacy gap between where students should be performing and where they are currently performing which needs to be corrected. Mr. Zaharchak is suggesting that the gap would need to be filled by taxpayer funded state-subsidies. Accordingly, more than 300 Pennsylvania school districts would require more than $2,000 of taxpayer funding per student from the state to close this gap.

The pressures faced by school districts will result in local property tax hikes unless the state continues its commitment to close the adequacy gap, the Governor said. “On average, it would take a 40-percent increase in local property taxes to generate the same investment as the state will contribute over the course of our multi-year funding formula,” the Governor said. “When the state pays its fair share, school districts can keep property tax increases to a bare minimum.”

Here is Pennsylvania Department of Education 2010-11 Budget if you would like to read the details.

In case you are interested, here is Governor Rendell’s Executive Budget 2010-11 if you would like to see the entire proposed budget.

Will Governor Rendell’s proposed state budget have an impact on TESD’s 2010-11 budget?  Comments Anyone?

Specifics on Pennsylvania $161 Million Budget Cuts Announced

In December, Governor Rendell vowed to cut an additional $170 million from Pennsylvania’s state budget in order to make up for lower-than-anticipated tax revenues. It looks like the specifics of those cuts have now been finalized. Here is a press release with the specific cuts but I am confused. I thought that the recent approval of the tables games was to help the budget situation? And here I thought that the state was going to help us with the teacher’s pension contribution increase?  How is that going to be possible?

   Pennsylvania Budget Cuts Another $161 Million

Pennsylvania’s budget took another hit, as the state released details of a $161 million round of cuts, which Gov. Ed Rendell ordered last month. Each department was instructed to cut another one percent from its current budget and while some trimmed each program equally, other departments eliminated programs to make the cut.

The Department of Community and Economic Development shed almost $11 million, cutting in whole the $200,000 previously allotted for the Super Computer Center, $1.23 million for infrastructure technical assistance and $1 million for minority business development. Funding for agile manufacturing, powdered metals and digital & robotic technology, together less than $1 million, was also cut.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources lost $1 million even as its forest land fetched bids above $5,000 per acre today from natural gas drillers looking to tap into the Marcellus Shale. Cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection totaled $3.8 million and were an even one percent across all programs.

Education funding fell by $27.8 million, eliminating the $1.9 million mobile science education program, $400,000 of higher education assistance, and $2 million for community education councils.

In health services, a $2.6 million biotechnology research program was stripped of its funding. Children’s Hospital lost its $200,000 share from the Department of Emergency Management while the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh had its $431,000 health appropriation cut to $215,000. Health care clinics that were due to receive $3 million from the Department of Public Welfare were cut from the budget, as were acute care hospitals, slated for $4.7 million in funding.

Several programs under the executive branch were eliminated, including safe neighborhoods, violence reduction, and $1.25 million for agricultural research, promotion, education and exports. Food marketing and research and the farm school nutrition initiatives were also axed.

Another $1 million was cut from the governor’s grants to the arts. Museums took another hit during this round.  Museums took another hit during this round. General museum assistance grants were slashed by a third and specific funding for the Carnegie Museum of National History and the Carnegie Science Center was cut in half from $113,000 each to $57,000.

 The Department of Labor and Industry cut is New Choices/New Options program, a $1.5 million initiative to retrain and place individuals looking for new careers.

Casinos Hit the Jackpot in Pennsylvania

The casinos have hit the jackpot. . . Pennsylvania Legislature has given them the authority to install table games such as poker and blackjack. The PA House voted 103-89 in favor of table games and the bill is now on Gov. Rendell’s desk, who will likely sign it today.  The larger casinos will be allowed 250 tables for the new table games and the smaller resort casinos will be permitted to have 50 tables.  The gambling regulators expect it may take up to six months to get the table games up and running.

For those who want to know . . . in addition to poker and black, the new law will include craps, baccarat and roulette.  Table games will be taxes at a rate of 16% of gross revenue, with 2 percentage points going to local counties and municipalities.  At the end of the second year, the gross tax rate will drop to 14%. Licensing fee to the larger casinos will be $16.5 million and the small resort casinos fee will be a charge of $7.5 Million.  The fees will increase after June 1.  It would seem to me that the licensing fees are really going to help fill the coffers of the state but some gambling opponents have argued that the fees are too small.  There was also a suggestion that there should have been a ‘bidding war’ and let the licenses go to the highest bidder. Pennsylvania  has nine operating casinos and all are expected to apply for the new table games licensing. In addition to infusing the state with licensing and tax revenue, the PA Gaming Board is expects casino table games will add thousand of jobs in the Commonwealth.

Gov. Rendell had turned to the table games revenue as a way to help settle the 2010 budget issues.  If you remember, Pennsylvania lawmakers it a 100+day impasse that finally ended in October but the details for the table games had remained unresolved.  If Gov. Rendell did not have the OK on this gambling bill settled by tomorrow, he was threatening layoff of more State employees; I heard the number could have been has high as 1,000.

What’s the saying, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Not being a gambler, I guess I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other . . . except I am excited that the approval of the table games bill will offer our residents thousands of job opportunities.  Not to mention the millions from licensing fees and tax revenues.