During the run-up and the defense stages of last year's state budget, one of the Corbett administration managed to point fingers at President Obama for failing to continue a federal subsidy that allowed school districts to spend wildly up to that point.
Although we can't recall the Warren County School District adding dozens of teaching positions just before cutting them last year, we'll pass over the administration's 2011 spin and look forward to 2012's excuses.
Here's one we can understand because it is empirical. The state's revenues are falling, trailing by 4 percent what they were last year. This is happening despite some tax cuts that were supposed to trigger more hiring that would, in turn, trigger more revenue.
At the halfway point in this fiscal year the state has collected about a half a billion dollars less in revenue than it did the year before. That will guarantee a deficit by budget time.
The governor's leaders in the General Assembly are already preparing us for a budget plan that will likely continue the path of cuts begun last year, except that they've already spent their "Obama's fault" excuse.
A trend is beginning to become clear when it comes to the relationship of the Corbett administration's fiscal policies and its trickle-down to local governments and school boards. Cuts in state spending to mandated services, without reductions in the mandated services requires additional local taxes to pay the bills. And, according to state law, those are generally borne by real estate taxes. Reference the WCSD's prediction that it will need a higher tax rate than its Act 1 ceiling would normally allow without a referendum. Among those locked-in costs is the pending increase in state pension fund payments.
Of course, the other answer is to further cut faculty and student services. But, there comes a point of diminishing returns with those cuts. There comes a point when increasing class sizes and decreasing services have a deleterious effect on education.
If that point is reached -and we believe it's not far off - the Corbett legacy of fiscal conservancy will be overshadowed by a cloud of educational decline.