Auditor General to research how budget crisis is costing schools

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Mar 17, 2016 12:10 PM

(Harrisburg) -- Schools have already had to borrow nearly $1 billion to cover operating costs while Governor Tom Wolf and state lawmakers fight over a completing this year's budget.

Now, state's top fiscal watchdog is planning to put more pressure on those who have failed to get a deal done.

It's round three for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

His office has already released two reports on how the budget crisis is affecting schools.

Now, he's planning to do a third, just as some districts are warning they may have to shut down or declare bankruptcy.

Red Lion in York County recently said it faces that option.

DePasaquale says it is not alone.

"Allentown talked about borrowing, certainly seen that it in Erie as well, those are two others. And we're starting to see how others are affected. April's a pretty big month if there isn't a budget by then," says DePasquale.

DePasquale said in December that districts have borrowed about $900 million - and interest payments could add tens of millions more to the final bill.

Reading School District says it's paying about $1,000 a day in interest costs.

DePasquale says the latest review is coming because he's not optimistic.

"In the beginning I was hopeful there would be a budget resolution, clearly that hasn't happened. But you're also starting to see more districts starting to borrow so that's what prompted it."

Governor Wolf says he will veto a short-term budget fix to get the final batch of state money flowing to schools and state agencies.

He says the Republican proposal would lead to a future billion dollar deficit, but GOP lawmakers say they're just trying to resolve the most pressing issues first.

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