Senator Fontana spoke at the 71st Annual Independence Day Celebration at Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville. Many residents braved the rain and attended this annual event which included a day full of activities and games for children and families and concluded with a fireworks show. Congratulations to Lauren Connelly and Helen Ewing of Lawrenceville United and the many volunteers throughout the community that assisted with the planning and organizing of this annual event!
Update on State Budget
Early in June, I wrote about the General Assembly’s majority party deliberately playing politics with the budget process and it looks like my predictions were correct. Here we are on June 30th and the Republicans have failed to even attempt to compromise with Governor Wolf and meet in the middle on a spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Since being elected, the governor has made it clear that he will fulfill his campaign promise of taxing the oil and gas companies to fund our schools along with providing property tax relief, yet the Republicans have consistently ignored this. In fact, poll after poll after poll has concluded that the governor’s agenda is what the taxpayers have asked for.
What many are labeling as Governor Corbett’s “Fifth Budget”, the $30.1 billion spending plan is a slap in the faces of commonwealth residents who elected Governor Wolf to turn our deficit and economy around. The Republicans are basically saying your voices have not been heard and we will continue to ignore them as we pass legislation that encompasses failed policies that have put us in the $2.3 billion deficit. These one-time budget gimmicks have not worked for the past four years and will not work for the next four budgets.
For weeks now, Governor Wolf has stated that he will veto any budget that reaches his desk that is not structurally balanced and does not require the Marcellus Shale industry to pay their fair share in order to fund the commonwealth’s schools. But the majority party keeps pressing to see how far they can go with their own agenda while continuing to toy with the livelihoods of so many Pennsylvanians families, employees, school districts, counties and nonprofit organizations that depend on an on-time budget. These acts are shameful but not surprising.
A New Distribution Formula is Needed for Basic Education Funding
The General Assembly should adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. That was the recent recommendation released by the Basic Education Funding Commission. The 15-member group, created through Act 51 of 2014, held 15 hearings over the past 11 months on this topic and heard testimony from 110 experts and advocates in the education field, nonprofit organizations as well as parents from urban, suburban and rural school districts throughout the state. The commission also engaged the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) to develop and record the results of a survey sent to a representative sample of school districts across the commonwealth to determine their costs for various factors to be used as a guide in developing the new formula. Overall, the suggestions have been met with bipartisan support from the Legislature, schools districts and education-organizations alike.
Pennsylvania is one of only three states that has no funding formula and has unfortunately earned the distinction of having the widest gap in per-pupil spending between its poorest and wealthiest districts of any state in the nation. It has become evident that something needs to be done.
The new recommended formula addresses inequality in education resources and takes into account several student-based factors, including: student count and district size; poverty and poverty concentration; English language learners; geographical location; and local tax efforts and capacity to determine the relative wealth of a district based on median income. The formula will also consider the number of students attending charter schools to address what are known as “stranded costs,” where a district is still charged with things like maintaining the upkeep of a school even though the funding follows the student. The formula assigns weights to each category to help determine the degree to which each factor drives up the cost of educating a student.
If signed into law, the poorest 25 percent of districts would receive an average of four times more from the formula than the richest 25 percent of districts.
The dilemma now lies in when to start using the new formula. The House and Senate majority party want to see at least a portion of any new money that is put towards education in the 2015-16 budget be distributed through the formula recommendation. On the other hand, the Wolf Administration wants to see the state make “significant restorations” in 2015-16 of the nearly $1 billion cut from school districts four years ago. The governor feels that waiting a year gives school districts a chance to recover some of the lost ground and provide a fairer foundation upon which this new formula can be built.
With that being said, the recommendations cannot go into effect without legislation approved by the General Assembly and the governor’s signature. Senate Bill 910 (SB 910) has been introduced as a means to enact the Basic Education Funding Commission’s recommended funding distribution formula. I am a co-sponsor to this legislation because I feel the current system is broken, insufficient and has created a disparity between districts. It is not fair to have some schools receiving more state resources than others with no real reason or explanation.
I commend the bipartisan work the commission has undertaken to come up with an accountable, transparent and predictable funding source for the state’s 500 school districts. I feel that this overdue formula will fairly distribute state resources and take into account other factors that have not previously been considered, to level the playing field. After all, Pennsylvania students should have equal opportunity to be educated at the highest standards.
All Senate district offices will be closed on Friday, July 3rd in celebration of the Independence Day Holiday. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Monday, July 6th. Have a happy and safe 4th!
11th Annual FontanaFest
The 11th annual FontanaFest is scheduled for Saturday, August 22nd from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and will once again be held at Highmark Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds!
The annual community event is perfect for families and children, promoting healthy and active lifestyles by providing many fun activities and crafts. Attendees also are provided with the opportunity to engage with several organizations from around the region and receive important information on available services and programs, nutrition, health care, jobs and jobs training. Lunch and beverages will be provided, and once again, IT’S ALL FREE!
Make sure you save the date, Saturday, August 22nd, and stay tuned throughout the summer for updated information on the 11th annual FontanaFest!
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program through the end of the year. The previous deadline had been today but has been extended through December 31st. Rebate distribution will begin tomorrow for anyone who returned their completed application by June 30th. After today, rebates will be distributed as claims are reviewed and processed by the Department of Revenue.
Applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. Keep in mind that half of Social Security income is excluded.
Due to program changes enacted last year to ensure claimants aren’t disqualified from rebates solely because of Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments, homeowners and renters may be eligible for rebates even if their eligibility income is greater than these limits. Any homeowner who collected Social Security, received a property tax rebate in 2013 for claim year 2012 and had annual income last year, discounting half of Social Security, up to $36,129, is encouraged to apply for a rebate for claim year 2014. Any renter in that same situation with an annual income in 2014, discounting half of Social Security, up to $15,484, is also encouraged to apply.
Apply Today – State Police Cadet
The Pennsylvania State Police is accepting applications to become a cadet through today for the written examination which is scheduled in August. Anyone interested in applying to be considered as a state police cadet must:
- Be at least 20 years of age when completing the application
- Must be at least 21 years of age and cannot have reached their 40th birthday prior to or on the date of appointment
- Possess a high school diploma or GED certificate, plus an associate’s degree or 60 semester credit hours at an accredited institution of higher education.
Following the written examination, successful candidates will move on to the oral examination phase. A candidate’s final overall score will be based on both the written and oral exams. An individual selected through the examination process must successfully complete a physical fitness test, polygraph test, background investigation, and medical and psychological evaluations before appointment as a cadet.
Anyone interested must apply today to take the written exam. For more information and to download an online application please visit www.patrooper.com.
Prevent Harming Children in Hot Vehicles
With the weather warming up as summer begins, it is important to keep in mind that too much exposure to sunlight and heat can cause problems, especially for children. In recent days, the Departments of Human Services and Health reminded Pennsylvanians to never under any circumstances leave children alone in cars, which could prove deadly, even after only a few minutes.
It’s never safe to leave children alone in a car, especially during the summer months. Heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees, causing severe injury or death to a child. Follow these important rules to protect children from heatstroke:
- Always check the backseats of a vehicle before locking it or walking away.
- Keep a stuffed animal in a child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move the toy to the front seat as a reminder when a child is in the backseat.
- If someone else is driving a child or daily routines have been altered, always check to make sure a child has arrived safely.
In Pennsylvania it is a summary offense to leave a child under the age of six unattended in a vehicle that is out of the adult’s sight under the Leaving an Unattended Child in a Motor Vehicle law. Additionally, leaving a child in a hot car can rise to the level of endangering the welfare of a child, which is a misdemeanor of the first degree. Anyone who sees a child unattended in a car should call 911 immediately and stay with the vehicle.
Did You Know…
Did you know according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that a car’s inside temperature can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes?
State Museum Launches Meet the Experts Series
To kick off the month of July, The State Museum of Pennsylvania will offer its visitors the opportunity to engage with museum curators and representatives of various Pennsylvania State agencies through its new “Summer 2015 in Nature Lab: Meet the Experts” series.
Specialists from fields ranging from archaeology to environmental protection will lead a variety of hands-on programs tailored toward all ages and designed to educate visitors about the rich natural world of Pennsylvania.
A majority of the programs in the series will be supervised by representatives of state agencies which include the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)and the State Library.
State Museum curators will direct other programs in the series.
Each 40-minute session will be hosted in Nature Lab, a new multipurpose demonstration lab adjacent to the natural history exhibits on the third floor of The State Museum. Nature Lab features live educational presentations, as well as interactive, hands-on learning experiences. Regular museum fees apply, unless otherwise noted.
Ten of the programs in the series will coincide with the museum’s highly-attended Learn@Lunchtime series. Museum admission is free during the hours of Learn@Lunchtime from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon – 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults (ages 12-64), $6 for senior citizens (ages 65 and up), and $5 for children (ages 1-11).
If you’re travelling through Harrisburg this summer and are interested in more information regarding The State Museum of Pennsylvania and a complete listing of programs featuring the Meet the Experts series, please visit www.statemuseumpa.org/news/.
Three Rivers Regatta
One of the region’s biggest summer events is taking place this weekend with the celebration of the 38th EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta. The event opens Friday, July 3rd and runs through Sunday, July 5th. A new management team, Peony Entertainment, has worked to infuse fresh and original ideas with longstanding traditions. From having a nine-story Ferris Wheel in Point State Park, bringing back formula one Power Boats, expanding the Kids Zone, welcoming major country music stars to the One Main Financial Stage, to honoring Pittsburgh’s history, this year’s event has something for everyone.
For more information about this year’s Regatta, schedule of events, music acts, racing information, and more, please visit them online at www.yougottaregatta.com.
The Mexican War Streets were laid out in 1848 by General William Robinson, Jr. who later became mayor of the city of Allegheny. After returning from service in the Mexican War, he subdivided his land and named the new streets after the battles and generals of that war: Buena Vista Street; Filson Way; Monterey Street; Palo Alto Street; Resaca Place; Sherman Avenue; and Taylor Avenue. With the spread of a streetcar network in the 1860’s, larger areas of land around the center of Allegheny City became accessible to streetcar “commuters,” and new “suburban” neighborhoods (like the Mexican War Streets) were quickly settled by middle class businessmen and professionals.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm