Contact My Office 
District Offices
Toll Free: 1-800-287-0614
 
Ford City
 Office
312 Ford St.
Ford City, PA 16226-1212
Tel: 724-763-3222
FAX: 724-763-9788
Staff: Abigail Major (Chief of Staff), Amajor@pahousegop.com
Marissa DeLorenzo, Mdelorenzo@pahousegop.com

Hours: Mon- Wed and Fri 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  Thurs. 12 pm - 7 pm.

Sarver Office
612 South Pike Road #106
Sarver, PA 16055
Phone: (724) 295-2200
Fax: (724) 295-2322  

Staff: Zachary Reigh, Zreigh@pahousegop.com
Marcia Fox Mfox@pahousegop.com

Hours: Mon-Fri 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.    

Capitol Office
216 Ryan Office Building
PO Box 202060
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2060
Tel: 717-783-5327
Fax: 717-260-6511
Staff: Erica Godsey, egodsey@pahousegop.com 
 
Email:  
The Honorable Jeff Pyle, jpyle@pahousegop.com
A Legislator’s Opinion of the Armstrong School District’s Plans of Construction
3/29/2011

I’m conservative but that’s not really a secret.  For six + years, I debated and worked against former Governor Ed Rendell’s tax, borrow and spend philosophy on a daily basis. I promised the people of the 60th Legislative District I would resist any and all tax increases. I’ve done it. The 3 building projects being proposed by the Armstrong School District Board of Directors endanger our taxpayers.

 

My grandfather was raised poor as poor can be. He worked hard, saved his money and raised his family here. His mantra was simple: “If you don’t have it, don’t spend it. Save for a rainy day.” It’s great advice we all should heed. The Armstrong School District must conduct itself the same way. The ASD pension obligation for its retirees and the corresponding reliance on the taxpayers’ money looms in the near future.

 

The $84 million dollar bond borrowed by the Armstrong School District Board of Directors will require a minimum pay back of $132 million (assuming a very optimistic 4.75% interest rate) over 25 years. The repayment of the ASD renovations bond issue will, according to calculations by the House Appropriations staff of professional financial experts, raise school property taxes on every property by close to 3% for each of the next twenty five years. Additionally, the ASD taxpayers are still paying back the bonds for the projects at West Hills and Lenape Elementary schools as well as West Shamokin Jr. Sr. High School.  Again, the ASD pension obligation looms large in our near future. To forego the 3 building projects and repay the bond without executing the projects will cost taxpayers millions because the bond money has already been received as of last Fall. The “let’s spend it because we already borrowed it” mindset sorely lacks logic. It’s a very Rendell-ish way of looking at things.

 

Over the past decade, the Commonwealth has funded over 57% of the ASD’s budgets which, in cross-state comparison, is incredibly high. In many of our more affluent eastern counties, that school funding figure is closer to 10-20% or less. The Senator and I have done exceptional work toward funding our schools. Within this year’s budget proposal, the ASD’s state funding will be reduced 9.87% which is an average reduction for each of the state’s 500 school districts. Specifically for Armstrong School District, the reduction approximates $5.5 Million dollars.  Increasing basic education funding is in direct correlation to increasing state taxes. The reduction represents a funding level closely consistent with school funding prior to the use of Federal stimulus monies that were clearly identified as “one time” funds that were concretely defined and understood to be ending this year at the time they were disbursed two years ago. Former Governor Rendell left us a $4 billion deficit and the people spoke very clearly last November—we will tolerate no tax increases. 

 

In the Governor’s recent budget proposal, the Commonwealth’s line item addressing school renovations and construction was cut from $318 million to $299 million which is expected to address the building/renovation projects already begun in Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.  ASD BoD is, of course, empowered to execute its 3 projects on its own authority but what is at stake is the 25% ($33 million) state reimbursement which may or may not be economically possible due to the aforementioned budgetary cuts.  This, I speculate, is why Secretary Tomalis has chosen to review the Armstrong School District’s Plan of Construction (PlanCon).  Neither the Senator nor I have the power to make the Secretary’s decision on reimbursement. That’s the Secretary’s decision alone. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, however, I was and am quite justified in asking the Secretary to review ASD’s plan because of the large amount of taxpayers’ money involved.  I continue to support the Senator’s efforts in this regard.

 

Some assert my opposition to the ASD BoD’s renovation plans signals support for the construction of a new super school….Wrong. When analyzing and overlaying the current state and local financial climate/condition with findings of the U.S. Census Report, it doesn’t make sense to incur indebtedness of $132 million dollars or greater for any reason right now.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the ASD has lost 17% of its student population over the past decade. According to the U.S. Census, we as a County are growing older and there are less of us (-4.5%).  Coupling the proposed bond debt AND the impending pension obligations will condemn our residents/homeowners in the Armstrong School District attendance area to a crushing, “don’t buy a home in Armstrong County” type of tax burden for decades to come. That doesn’t work. To subject our citizenry to the kind of property tax hikes that will ensue as a result of this building surge is not reasonable. It rekindles the bad taste in my mouth of Rendell’s tax/borrow/spend “cut and run” philosophy that has left us hugely in debt with little to show for it.

 

This said I sincerely hope the ASD BoD does not proceed with these projects. To proceed with the projects would blindly disregard current and projected economic conditions, declining state funding, possible disappearance of the line item addressing school construction, rapidly declining student population, an aging and shrinking citizenry AND the overwhelming majority will of the people that have reached out to me with their opposing opinion.

 

Signs proclaiming the Senator and I are costing our taxpayers lots of money per month are laughable. We are, in fact, doing the exact polar opposite. In calling to question the ASD’s current building plans, the Senator and I are trying to spare the ASD taxpayers from school property tax increases that I feel will be economically debilitating for the County for years to come.

 

To close, responsible representative government in a democracy depends on those who are elected to represent the wishes of those who elect them. The elected must constantly monitor and elicit input from the citizenry. It’s been my cornerstone of my decision making for the votes I’ve made in the Legislature for six + years. The indebtedness to be carried by our taxpayers is huge... as my grandfather would have said “We don’t have it. Don’t spend it.”

 

State Representative Jeff Pyle

60th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  Tim Eller

teller@pahousegop.com

717.260.6242
JeffPyle.net
Facebook.com/RepJeffPyle

Share |