Recent publicity has called attention to the billions in reserve funds accumulated by Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, 67 vocational/technical schools and 176 charter schools. Are school districts hoarding funds that could be used to avoid tax increases or program cuts? Are cries that more state aid is needed an exaggeration? Read Explaining School Fund Balances: Are PA Schools, with $4.3 billion in Reserve Funds, Really Flush? Just the (Dry) Facts by David Davare, Pennsylvania Economy League Central’s Director of Research.
A recent Scranton Times-Tribune article – In region’s tough times, it pays to be in a municipal union – explored the disparity between the generous pay increases granted to public sector unions in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton since 2000 through arbitration awards versus the median pay for full-time male workers in those same cities.
The article and subsequent editorial – “Leapfrog takes cities over cliff” – features comments from PEL Central Executive Director Gerald Cross on the issue:
Mr. Cross said police and firefighters benefit from the arbitration process, which is insulated from the “market conditions” that other workers must live with. In the meantime, arbitrators regularly point to higher police and firefighter salaries in other cities to justify award raises in the cases before them.
That produces an ongoing “leap-frog effect,” with arbitrator repeating the method over and over and producing ever-higher salaries, he said.
“It isn’t against fire and police,” Mr. Cross said of his opinion that the law should change. “The discussion is how can we continue to afford public services, and continue to restrict municipalities abilities to pay for them … No one argues that a firefighter’s job isn’t valuable, a policeman’s job isn’t valuable. It’s a risky job.”
Recent data indicated that the once booming Pennsylvania townships are seeing troubling signs including rising service costs and tax revenue that is either declining or flattening. The challenge for townships may soon be the same issue facing distressed cities: how to provide quality services at a price that taxpayers can afford.
Read PEL’s latest commentary The Quiet Boom and Potential Bust of PA Townships
Pennsylvania Economy League Central Division’s Lycoming/Clinton Issues Forum brought together a panel from government and business to discuss what the next phase of Marcellus Shale development brings to the Williamsport region. As part of the event, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection provided various fact sheets on topics related to natural gas drilling activities. Click the links below to download the handouts.
Legislation was recently introduced that would expand public-private partnership (P3) projects from just transportation to include local government and school district projects. If approved, it would open the door to a broad range of P3 projects across the Commonwealth and streamline the bidding and award process for P3s for local governments and school districts. Click to read the details in the Ballard Spahr alert.
The Scranton Times takes an insightful look at municipal pension problems in a recent series that included interviews with PEL Executive Director Gerald Cross.
Click on the links below to read the series:
Reforms to Act 47 will not prevent the circumstances that are causing more and more municipalities to experience fiscal problems that endanger service delivery. Pennsylvania needs options that will better enable communities to provide regional services. Read about the problem and one possible solution in Beyond Act 47: A Call to Action!
The Executive Committee of Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics recently identified options to address Pennsylvania’s public pension funding crisis. Click to read the Pension Working Group report.
As school districts across the state are forced to increase class size, shrink course offerings, delay technology upgrades and more in the face of stagnating local revenues and increasing costs, the Pennsylvania Economy League suggests sharing services as a way to mitigate district financial difficulties. The examples of district cooperation are increasing, but more can still be done. Click here to download School District Cooperation Frees Scarce Resources for Education