PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Public Schools hosted a public hearing on Monday about their $665.6 million preliminary budget and the proposed tax increase.
The 2020 budget is a 2.4 percent increase from the 2019 General Fund Budget. There’s also a proposed tax increase of 2.3 percent.
According to the district, there hasn’t been a proposed tax increase in five years.
The public hearing held at the Administration Building in Oakland began at noon on Monday.
KDKA’s Shelby Cassesse says most people were in favor of the proposed tax increase but wanted the money to be allocated less to school security like officers and metal detectors. Rather, they wanted the tax increase to go toward counselors and social services.
The district’s budget has recently come under heavy scrutiny from both local and state politicians.
Variety of views on @PPSnews PGH Public School budget with proposed tax increase aired at hearing today. What are they saying about higher property taxes? My story tonight on @KDKA pic.twitter.com/vwBqUpHIwC
— Jon Delano KDKA (@JonDelano) December 2, 2019
After Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale took Superintendent Anthony Hamlet to task for spending close to half a million dollars a year on travel, Controller Michael Lamb said the district has taken no action to rein in those costs.
“Now to be asking for a tax increase, when they haven’t put their financial house in order, is a problem,” Lamb told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan two weeks ago.
Hamlet released a statement in response to the Auditor General’s review. It reads, in part:
“One result of that audit was a clear indication that we needed to upgrade our professional development significantly. Simply put, we need more people in our District to be better acquainted with cutting-edge theory and practice in public school education. We, therefore, expanded our professional development budget to allow for this type of development across a wider array of staff and administrators.
“While we always seek opportunities to supplement professional development related travel utilizing grant funds whenever possible, our current spending amounts to .06% of the overall District General Fund expenditures. Furthermore, it is in line with what many comparable districts around the country are spending. The auditor’s comparison to Philadelphia is clearly an attempt to make statistics work against the District. Philadelphia is a school district that was under state oversight for 16 years during which time all investments were minimal. Even so, a District survey in 2018, found overall travel expenses in Philadelphia totaled $924,000 compared to the $362,705 expended in PPS for travel-related professional development.
“I recognize that any new spending is cause for concern in a District that is funded by taxpayer dollars. I also know that an investment in our staff development will pay dividends for years to come in improving the quality of public-school education in Pittsburgh.”