Pennsylvania Parents Fight Taxes with Common Sense

Back to September 2012 Ed Reporter

Pennsylvania Parents Fight
Taxes with Common Sense

A Pennsylvania group saved two local school districts $900,000 and prevented a tax increase with just a calculator and a little common sense – and they’re working to teach others how to do the same.

Leadership for Liberty (LfL), a nonpartisan conservative activist group, worked with school board members in Pennsylvania’s Catasauqua and Upper Perkiomen school districts to find ways to save money without hurting students. The group carefully examined Pennsylvania Department of Education budget documents line by line and drafted alternate budgets that saved the department hundreds of thousands of dollars – all without compromising student programs.

In the Catasauqua district, for example, LfL found that changing worker’s compensation insurance carriers would save the district $40,000. They also suggested having parents sell concessions during sports events, rather than paying teachers overtime to do it. “Instead of just complaining that taxes and spending are too high,” said LfL vice-chair Kim Schmidtner in a statement, ” we assisted school board members in developing tangible, specific, and responsible solutions to the fiscal challenges facing their school districts that preserve a high quality of education for the children.”

LfL plans to present alternate budgets to 19 Pennsylvania school districts this year, and will expand its efforts into all 500 of the state’s districts next year. EAGnews.org reported that the group is working on a “how to” booklet for citizens to duplicate LfL’s efforts in their own districts.

LfL Chair Joe Hillard said:

We help take the mystery out of understanding school district budgets and compare ideas with other school districts to determine the best solutions to common problems. The first step is simply to learn what to ask for and what to look for. We hear far too often that school board members and the public are told that detailed budgets don’t exist or that there is no need to look at them. Such attitudes are irresponsible and we applaud the handful of dedicated and motivated school board members . . . who are setting new expectations. . . . Hopefully the gold standard for next year will be responsible tax cut Alternate Budgets in many school districts in the region.

Hillard thinks LfL’s approach could work in school districts all over the country. “Any state will have similar budget reporting practices,” he told eagnews.org. “If you can use a calculator and have common sense, you can do this. You don’t need special skills. You just have to learn the system.”