Mon Yough school districts, nonprofits getting by for now with no state budget 01-Aug-2015
Pennsylvania hasn't had a budget for a month — and the effect may be felt soon by schools and social agencies.
“In the course of a year, around 3,500 people come through, using our services on a regular basis,” Mon Yough Community Services Executive Director Carol Gross said. “Mon Yough does not plan to close its doors to anyone.”
“We anticipated that this would happen back in April so we extended our lines of credit when a time when we were creditworthy (and) changed some of the provisions which cost us more money,” Auberle CEO John Lydon said.
McKeesport Area School District spokeswoman Kristen Davis said effects began when the fiscal year ended June 30.
East Allegheny business manager Toni Valicenti said it affected “the overall financial operations including, but not limited to, the cash flow, accounts payable, and accounts receivables” in her district.
Clairton City spokeswoman Alexis Trubiani said her district “anticipated a late budget and has been proactive to insure that the start of school will not be delayed.”
State fund recipients haven't talked much to lawmakers.
“Some nonprofits are scheduled to meet with us in the next week or two to share their concerns,” said Rob Ritson, chief of staff to Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, who had “informal conversations” with some school officials.
“We have had a couple school districts check in with us,” said Tim Joyce, chief of staff to Sen. James R. Brewster, D-McKeesport. “We've also had a couple skilled nursing homes contact us.”
“The real avalanche of complaints or concerns has yet to occur (but) I think we're on the cusp of that happening,” said House Appropriations Minority Chairman Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville.
“Hopefully it is something we can get addressed before we reach a critical situation,” said Rep. George Dunbar, R-Penn Township, part of the Appropriations Committee majority caucus.
“It's a shame that we passed a great budget funding all those agencies,” said Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township. “In 274 line items out of 400 we put in more money than the governor asked for yet he vetoed it all and put those agencies in jeopardy.”
Dunbar suggested there may be an override vote on line items on which Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly agree. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills said the Democratic governor seeks common ground with GOP legislative leaders.
“The governor has been forthcoming with a number of concessions,” Costa said. “Unfortunately (his effort) has not been met with similar type activity by the Republicans.”
Wolf and his backers urged Pennsylvanians to petition their lawmakers. Costa said budget cuts during Gov. Tom Corbett's administration led to credit downgrades that added $170 million to the interest paid on state indebtedness.
The Commonwealth Foundation said pension liabilities were cited by rating agencies in each downgrade and that Wolf has sought $3 billion in new pension obligation bonds.
Amid the debate, efforts continue to provide services.
At MYCS Gross was asked by Allegheny County Director of Human Services Marc Cherna to continue to provide services in such areas as drug and alcohol, intellectual disabilities, mental health and vocational support.
The county provides state funds through its Department of Human Services and expects to continue paying social agencies through August.
“The cost to the county to cover DHS contracts is about $33 million a month,” county Director of Communications Amie Downs said. “Because of the conservative budgeting by the county Executive (Rich Fitzgerald), we have a positive pooled cash position that will enable us to float the funds for that two month period.”
The county's call went to Gross and more than 400 other members of the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership.
Lydon chairs the partnership's advisory team — and feared a prolonged stalemate could force some agencies to discontinue services.
Faith-based Auberle gets state funds and federal funds funneled through state agencies, as well as gifts from donors and the Catholic Church.
Lydon said nonpublic funds cover such ventures as Auberle's Employment Institute, but “there are services that the government is mandated to do, such as removing children from homes (where) government comes to people like Auberle and say ‘we think you can do this more efficiently.'”
Lydon said public funding “is probably 85 percent of our budget,” but while state law requires full payment for such work, “they haven't done that in years (and) there has been no increase in residential funding for 12 years.”
Still, Lydon said, “we will continue to render our whole service for as long as we can” and if need be it can be eight to nine months.
By then a new funding formula may be ready for the public schools, depending when legislation is passed to implement a bipartisan commission's recommendations announced on June 18.
For now, districts wait for a compromise between Wolf and legislative subsidy plans.
“The more lower income school districts will be affected sooner than the wealthier districts,” Markosek said.
“We might run out of money around November,” Elizabeth Forward school board president Philip Martell said.
Then, by state law, Martell said Elizabeth Forward director of finance and operations Richard Fantauzzi must concentrate on debt service and payroll.
“Rich will have to prioritize what bills we have to pay,” said Martell, himself a business manager in the Connellsville Area School District.
Norwin district business manager John Wilson said an impact might not happen there “until our real estate tax collections start to decline in early December.” He said local and federal revenues will help mitigate a lack of state funds.
“A bigger concern at this point is not knowing the budget numbers and we are already into a new school year,” South Allegheny spokeswoman Laura Thomson said.
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