News Column

Erie-area schools hope for more in Corbett budget

February 4, 2014

By Erica Erwin, Erie Times-News, Pa.

Feb. 04 -- Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams will be crossing his fingers as Gov. Tom Corbett presents his 2014-15 state budget today. The budget is expected to include between a reported $100 million and $200 million in additional basic education funding -- any slice of which the cash-strapped Erie district would welcome. "Any increase from the state ... will be really appreciated because we're continually in that perpetual deficit" because of rising salary and pension costs, Badams said Monday. The Erie School District , the largest in the region with about 12,000 students, will receive nearly $57 million in basic education funding from the state for 2013-14, about 40 percent of its current total budget. Badams is hoping that number will go up for 2014-15. But more cause for optimism, he said, is the state House of Representatives' consideration of reviewing the school funding formula -- how funding is distributed across the commonwealth. Badams said he hopes Corbett discusses both the funding formula and pension reform. The district's pension contribution rose from 16 percent to 22 percent this year, contributing almost $1.5 million to the district's projected $5 million shortfall for 2014-15. "These are big policy matters that have a really direct impact on the budget," Badams said. "Even though we've shored up our short-term finances and dug out of the big deficits of the past, these sort of structural costs we're talking about will inevitably lead us back into pretty significant deficit budgets. "We need a long-term solution to create sustainable public school budgets," he said. Like Erie , the Fairview School District is assuming level funding from the state but hoping for more. "It would be great," Fairview schools Superintendent Erik Kincade said. "It would certainly take some pressure off local taxpayers and allow us to continue and grow programs." The district is considering a renovation of its high school in the next five to seven years. Any additional revenue the district receives is going into its capital projects fund to help grow a healthy balance before starting that project, which is expected to cost just shy of $40 million , Kincade said. "We're anxious to get that project rolling," he said. Money from Harrisburg has to roll first. ERICA ERWIN can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNerwin . ___ (c)2014 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) Visit the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) at www.GoErie.com Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Erie Times-News (PA)


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