ShareThis Page

Brentwood School District to borrow money, citing state budget impasse

| Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 8:21 p.m.

Brentwood Borough School District will be out of money by the end of May — barring “a miracle” or passage of the state budget, Superintendent Amy Burch said.

Eight months have passed with no state budget for 2015-16, and Brentwood, like many school districts across the commonwealth, is feeling the financial squeeze, Burch said.

The district has banned outside spending, cut purchases of desks and is closely monitoring all other purchases.

Yet, just paying the bills will drain the $3.5 million fund balance that the district had June 30. The district anticipated only using $983,000 from its reserve during the 2015-16 school year.

“There needs to be accountability,” Burch said.

“School districts are required to meet deadlines or else we face penalties. Yet the Legislature was supposed to pass their budget in June. That never happened.”

Brentwood School District business manager Jennifer Pesanka is talking to banks about borrowing money to keep the district operating through the end of the 2015-16 school year and into 2016-17, since the state budget for next year was just presented, Burch said.

How much will the district borrow?

“In all honesty, I can't even give you a number,” Burch said.

That's because the district doesn't know how much it could get from the state for 2015-16, or 2016-17, or when that money might come, Burch said.

“I honestly still don't know what we're going to get for this school year,” she said.

Loans, too, are tricky, Burch said, because districts have to make sure they are not required to repay the money before the state passes its budget — something they don't have a timeframe for, Burch said.

Board members have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the lack of a state budget.

Burch is urging residents to contact their state representatives.

She did the same, showing how the budget impasse has harmed the school district.

In February, Brentwood school board agreed to withhold tuition payments to charter schools, totaling $26,000 a month.

The district either will be billed or have the money taken out of its basic education subsidy once state funding begins to be received again, Burch said.

The district's 2015-16 budget included receiving a projected $3.22 million from the state, Burch said.

Those numbers were loosely based on a budget presented by Gov. Tom Wolf for 2015-16.

The district, based on that proposal, anticipated receiving $4.6 million in basic education funding, $573,665 in PlanCon reimbursements for past construction projects and $65,000 a month for Social Security reimbursements.

The district's 2015-16 budget anticipated spending $21.4 million.

In December, some state funding was released to school districts. Yet, Brentwood only received about $2 million for basic education funding and zero for PlanCon reimbursements, Burch said.

Social Security reimbursements are two months behind.

Based on anticipated state funding, Brentwood School District still is owed $3.2 million from the state, Burch said.

Yet, depending on what funding is allotted in the state budget once passed, that number could change, she said.

Districts now are trying to craft budgets for 2016-17, Burch said.

But they still don't know what they're getting for 2015-16 from the state.

“It's so frustrating that school districts always find a way to make it work, because it's for the kids,” Burch said.

“I say the Legislature doesn't have the same interest in mind.”

Any purchase in Brentwood is reviewed with a simple requirement, she said: “Is it absolutely critical?”

The state Department of Education prepared a checklist for districts in case they have to close during the budget impasse.

That's not a route Burch said she's willing to go.

Instead, she's hoping residents will join her in seeking action from the Legislature.

“People need to make sure their voices are heard,” she said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5818 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.