Pa. voters get more say on school budgets

    A bill that will offer most Pennsylvania voters greater control over local school taxes has passed as part of the state budget deal.

    It eliminates several exceptions that allowed districts to raise spending above the rate of inflation without submitting tax rates for voter approval. The exceptions have allowed about $895 million in spending to happen without voter review since 2006. That’s when school budget referendums began in Pennsylvania.

    Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis says this will help curtail rising education costs.

    “Those exceptions were written so broadly that school districts were freely and quickly relying on them to raise property taxes,” he said.

    However, Dave Davare of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is worried this will make it harder for struggling districts to raise needed revenue.

    “We’re concerned about the passage of this bill because this follows right on the heels of a reduction in school district subsidies,” he said.

    The state will now grant exceptions only for special education and pensions costs, and for debts on building projects begun before 2005.

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