Pittsburgh school board to consider property tax hike, $ 56 million shortfall in this year’s budget

Although the Pittsburgh Public Schools Administration initially proposed a budget without a tax increase, the board will consider a tax increase at its last meeting of the year.

The increase would equal an additional $ 30 for every $ 100,000 of assessed property value. While the district’s $ 690 million budget includes a deficit of $ 56 million, the tax increase would increase about $ 5 million more per year.

Some board members say that the money raised is a drop in the ocean and that it is not worth placing an additional burden on taxpayers. Enrollment has declined by more than 4,000 students in the past five years, and for the first time in modern history, Kindergarten to Grade 12 enrollment is below 20,000. The district operates 54 buildings, the most are under capacity and the district has said they are expensive to maintain.

Other board members argue that not raising taxes ignores opportunities for students.

More than half of the district’s budget goes towards salaries and benefits. Board member Pam Harbin recently noted that the “cuts” requested by board members would mean cuts in staff and programs.

Raising taxes was not on the table originally. CFO Ron Joseph recently asked the board if they wanted it to include a property tax increase in the budget. He said he wanted to gauge their interest rather than offering a raise. For the past two years, the budget department has had to adjust the budget at the last minute when board members and former directors suggested increases.

Joseph also warned the board that if something doesn’t change, the district will deplete its fund balance at some point in 2022 and will not be able to pay its bills in 2023. The PPS fund balance is similar. a savings account that allows the district to maintain operations when income is low.

At the council’s monthly public hearing on Monday, James Fogarty, executive director of education advocacy group A + Schools, said current funding for schools in the district is more equal than fair.

“Add funding to a system that favors schools with low concentration of poverty and [students] disabilities will only exacerbate current inequalities. Please do not pass a budget without specifying what the district will spend on each school until the public knows before the budget is passed whether the allocations are fair. And if they are not, why not?

Parent Karey Kluesner has asked council to vote “no” to a tax increase.

“The district and school board emergency has not been enough to reverse a budget deficit projected since at least 2017,” Kluesner said.

She said she agreed with board member Tracey Reed, who asked that the budget include proposed school funding to ensure equity.

“I would like the schools with the lowest scores to get more money to reverse these trends,” Kluesner said. “Further, any staff reduction should not only affect school staff, but a combination of district administration and school staff. “

The board is due to vote a budget on Wednesday at its 6 p.m. meeting.

Penny D. Jackson