PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A property tax increase and the future of Pittsburgh Public Schools are dividing all those who support education in the city.
The proposed property tax hike, a first for Pittsburgh Public Schools in five years, has members of the school board and the mayor at odds.
On Monday, parents and residents pleaded with the board to pass the tax increase despite declining enrollment and proficiently scores.
The district is proposing a $665 million school budget with a property tax hike of 2.3 percent to cover a $20 million deficit.
This for a total enrollment of just more than 21,000 students, which has fallen steadily from 38,000 over the last two decades.
Those who oppose the tax increase say they can’t support a rise in taxes until there is a rise in test scores.
“If the children can’t read, they can’t do math, they can’t do science, they can’t do anything,” board member Sala Udin said. “All of the courses are literacy-based.”
But many parents and educational advocates say without a tax increase, there will be more cuts and fewer students.
“We’re not spending enough on our kids right now,” parent Ghadah Makoshu said. “We need more support in our schools. We need more arts, we need more music, we need more athletics.”
“If you start talking about closing schools in black neighborhoods, that is a problem,” another person added.
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Mayor Bill Peduto met with Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet on Monday, saying more accountability over how funds are spent is needed, including Hamlet’s trip to Cuba.
Something the Pennsylvania auditor general agrees with.
“The board should have approved this trip before it happened, and there should have been a written report about how the taxpayer and the students benefited. Neither of those things happened. Unacceptable,” Eugene DePasquale said.
The board will vote on Wednesday on the tax increase.