PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The president of the Pittsburgh Public School Board says taxpayers won’t stand for a property tax increase.
The district wants to raise property taxes to cover things like teacher salaries.
“I think there’s a lot of belt-tightenings that still needs to be done before we can consider a tax increase, and I also think we’re going to have a hard time keeping families in the city,” president Lynda Wrenn said.
Despite KDKA’s series of reports questioning excessive travel, tens of millions of dollars on unproven education technology, and more than 600 loosely regulated credit cards — the district has taken no steps to limit those costs.
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Instead, it has introduced a budget of $665 million dollars for a total enrollment of just more than 21,000 students, which has fallen steadily from 38,000 over the last two decades.
“It’s going to be a hard justify a tax increase when people see enrollment going down, expenses going up and even salaries,” Wrenn said.
Despite the falling enrollment under Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, the district has created 281 new positions through next year, bringing total employment to 4,098.
And under the new teachers’ contract, salaries have increased by $9 million since 2018.
But the biggest problem may be the number of under-enrolled schools. KDKA counted six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school operating under 50 percent capacity.
But right now, the district has no efficiency or consolation plan.
Andy Sheehan: Do you think the district needs state oversight?
Bill Peduto: I do. I think the best thing that could happen to Pittsburgh Public Schools is state oversight, like Act 47 to get the financial picture in order.
The district is looking to the city for some $18 million in revenue it says it lost when the city went under state financial oversight.
Since the city has emerged from that oversight, the board said it wants the money back.
Mayor Peduto says the money isn’t theirs but is willing to talk under the condition that the district comes under state financial control.
“Where the state will come in, open up all of the books, let the people of Pittsburgh see where the spending is happening, look at the revenues and come up with a better plan, I’m going to work with them. But if they simply say, ‘We’re going to take you revenue to fix our hole and not be the leaders they were elected to be in making tough decisions like raising taxes,’ then I have no time for that,” Peduto said.