Sarah Bilotti

Instructional Integrity, Fiscal Accountability

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Interview – Part 3 – School Funding

April 17th, 2009 · No Comments · Interview

School Funding
18.    Tax reform is a subject of ongoing debate in the state Legislature.  Do you think additional school tax reform is needed, and would you support completely eliminating the property tax?

I think that the governor is proposing some interesting funding ideas through the taxation of casinos in PA which could benefit both taxpayers and school districts alike.  That said, I do not believe that eliminating property tax is an effective or efficient method by which to fund schools.  I also would not support eliminating property tax and then substantially raising flat taxes, such as sales tax, to pay for public education.

19.    The issue of education funding has been an ongoing debate in the legislature for many years.  Would you support changes to Pennsylvania’s education funding formula that would both increase equity and the percentage of state support?

I do not support substantially raising flat taxes to pay for public education but I do support taxing things like casinos and slot machines to subsidize education.

I realize that the legislation mentioned in the next few questions has not passed into law; however, I hope that my answers help you further understand my views on schools and taxation.

20.    The backend referendum requirements of Act 1 of Special Session 2006 prohibit school districts from raising taxes above a set rate unless the school board gains voter approval.  Would you support seeking a referendum to increase taxes above the rate of inflation, if deemed necessary?

I would not compromise on instructional integrity or school safety.  If data was shown to me that it was necessary to raise taxes above the rate of inflation in order to maintain high instructional standards, then I would do so.

21.    Act 1 of Special Session 2006 permits school boards to raise tax rates up to the rate of inflation each year without seeking voter approval.  Would you vote to increase taxes up to this rate on a consistent basis in order to ensure that no unnecessary cuts to the school districts’ educational program are required due to a failed referendum?

If this question is asking if I would inflate the budget one year in order to avoid the chance of a failed referendum in the next year, the answer is no.  I believe that type of practice to be unethical.

I prefer a style of accounting that is more transparent and is clearly aligned with state and federal guidelines.

I believe that there is a balance between instructional integrity and fiscal responsibility; that said, I would not compromise on instruction or student safety.

22.    Act 1 of Special Session 2006 does permit school boards with the ability to raise tax rates above the rate of inflation without seeking voter approval in limited instances, when school districts have what are deemed “exceptable” costs.  Would you support seeking all available exceptions to avoid costly and polarizing backend referendum ballot questions?

I would not allow an administrator to manipulate the budget in order to circumvent state regulations.  I believe that school boards have an ethical responsibility to the students, faculty, and community to represent themselves honestly and transparently.  I also believe that boards need to ensure they are clearly operating within current state and federal regulations.

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