By Austin Brown, news editor
Gov. Tom Wolf liberated an estimated $23.4 billion of the $30.3 billion budget on December 29, saving many school districts and social service agencies from further borrowing or even closures in January through his use of the line-item veto.
On Jan. 5, PENNCREST school district received $13,217,836.81 from the emergency funding granted to Pennsylvanians. Though the money received is only a little over one-third of the district’s usual amount, PENNCREST desperately needed the funds allotted in order to prevent the district from needing to borrow money. Jacquelynn Dutchcot, PENNCREST`s Finance Director, said, “We haven’t had to borrow money at all. We lucked out because if we did not get the money by this week, we would have had to borrow the general amount of money that we receive from the state.”
The money to which Dutchcot referred was to be withdrawn, if needed, from the pre-established $5 million TRAN loan from Erie Bank, which was approved back in November. She noted at the school board work session on Jan. 11 that the district’s general fund had been reduced to about $600,000.
The funds released from the state will only be used for daily school expenses and will only last the district until the end of April, according to Dutchcot. This means that PENNCREST must continue to limit spending to the essential resources of education. “PENNCREST is doing their best to maintain a quality education under the current financial constraints,” Dutchcot said. Saegertown High School`s Principal Tom Baker said, “It (the money received from the state) is nowhere close to the full amount of money which we are due to receive.” He added, “All precautionary measures are still in place (to limit spending).”
Even though some relief was given to school districts, county governments, and state vendors, the release of emergency funding has also taken the pressure off Pennsylvanian lawmakers. According to a Jan. 10 Associated Press article: “Pressing concerns about schools and social service agencies staying open in January have been replaced by a new round of partisan finger-pointing and a completely new timeline.” In fact, some suspect it could stretch until after the April 26 primary election. Considering Pennsylvania is currently in its longest budget impasse, many believe that this could become the new norm.
Twenty-year veteran journalist John Finnerty, Harrisburg Bureau Reporter, said, “Unfortunately we could go through this every year. This could become the new way that we negotiate.” Dutchcot agreed. “We (PENNCREST) need to be prepared, and we must be more conservative when budgeting. I foresee this could be happening again in the future.”