Almost 8 mills of what McKeesport Area School District collects in property taxes goes to the city's two charter schools, Propel McKeesport and Young Scholars of McKeesport, according to district officials.
At September's school board meeting, Board President Joe Lopretto said that charter school payments amounting to nearly $6 million are taking away needed revenue from McKeesport's public schools and forcing the district to make painful choices.
"Without that funding coming in it's either cut programs, get rid of teachers, or we've got to raise taxes just to keep the district going," Lopretto said. "With what we're putting out in charter school tuitions every year ... it's coming from our district and it's really hurting us."
Public school districts were once given a 30 percent reimbursement from the state Department of Education to offset payments to charters, Lopretto said, but that was cut in 2011 by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, and has never been restored.
Lopretto noted that state Sen. Jim Brewster recently said that charter schools "are strangling school districts and eventually will put them out of business."
Each mill of property taxes collected by McKeesport Area School District brings in about $779,000, Lopretto said, quoting figures provided by district Business Manager David Seropian. That means 7.7 mills of the district's 17.37-mill property tax rate goes to fund charter schools, Lopretto said.
School Superintendent Mark Holtzman said McKeesport Area is planning for the future and added that the school board's current budget is a "nice solid plan to move (the) district forward."
"We're still offering our students an awesome service and an incredible educational environment, but we sometimes have to sacrifice some things," Holtzman said.
Lopretto said the board is committed to "stay on top of the budget" and will keep residents informed. "We don't want to "We don't want to catch anyone by surprise," he sad. "I want to keep you aware."
Mary Shelly is a freelance writer and student at McKeesport Area High School.
Originally published October 06, 2017.