With three major construction projects underway, last May the Warren County School Board expressed its concern that a delay in state reimbursements for school construction could cause the district to increase its borrowing to pay for the projects or reduce services.
The board sent its concern to Harrisburg in the form of a resolution calling on the state to continue funding the construction process (called the Planning and Construction Workbook, or PlanCon).
The resolution also called on the General Assembly to "examine and revise the current PlanCon process to save resources for both school districts and the Department of Education while still maintaining a state reimbursement program that ensures the structural and educational integrity of school facilities."
Warren County is not alone.
The Western Wayne School District near Scranton has found itself pinched by the reimbursement shortfall to the point it is now asking the Education Department for permission to raise property taxes above the state-mandated ceiling and is considering asking voters to approve a 6 percent increase in property taxes.
Southern York County School District officials told the House Education Committee earlier this month that it is owed $745,000 by the state for additions and renovations to an elementary school.
Gov. Tom Corbett, looking down the road at a short-fall at the state level, called for a moratorium on new applications for reiumbursements, and the General Assembly followed through and put the moratorium in effect on October 2012.
Western Wayne Superintendent Clay LaCoe was succinct in an interview with the Scranton Times-Tribune: "We followed the rules by the state. They're not following through on their obligation."
The extent of the problem has prompted state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, to call for an additional $100 million in funding for school construction projects, while narrowing future projects that would qualify for state aid.
We would like to call on our own state representative to join Mr. Grove in his efforts.
School boards like the one here in Warren County have followed the rules and put their faith in the state to follow through with its obligation. The consequences if the state renegs will be felt by local taxpayers and students.