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Norwin talks school closures as Pennsylvania budget deadlock drags on

| Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, 10:18 p.m.

Norwin School District officials said Friday they will be forced to borrow money or close schools in early 2016 if the state budget impasse isn't resolved.

“Neither decision is one the school district wants to make, and we have not committed to any of these options,” said Robert Perkins, school board president.

The school board is continuing to discuss what to do, he added.

“We are being forced to consider these because of the elected officials who refuse to compromise and provide proper funding. The time has come for school districts to send a strong message to Harrisburg,” Perkins said.

The state's fiscal year started July 1, but a protracted stalemate between the Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf has resulted in no budget and the funding it contains for schools and other agencies.

About 5,200 students attend Norwin schools. The district has a $65.9 million budget and received about $15 million as a basic state subsidy payment in 2013-14.

The district has been using revenues raised locally to operate, but those funds are estimated to run out in February, said John Wilson, director of business affairs.

“The district's goal is to avoid borrowing funds over the remainder of the fiscal year,” Wilson said. “However, as we all know, without a regular revenue stream to count on and the lack of a state budget, borrowing is not out of the question at this point.”

Superintendent William Kerr said he dislikes the options the school board must consider.

“None of these options are really good options,” he said. “We don't want to close schools, but we are prepared to do so because the state elected officials have failed in their duty to provide funding for public education.”

Dr. Jason A. Conway, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit executive director, said all 17 member school districts are affected by the lack of a budget and a discussion among them is needed.

“This is not just an individual school district raising the issue,” Conway said. “As an intermediate unit, we've been hearing many concerns from our member school districts, and this may be the only way to get the attention of the state's decision makers.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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