On Sunday, Senator Fontana attended the annual ceremony at the Allegheny Elks Lodge 339 on the Northside that pays tribute to Flag Day. It was the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks that helped create Flag Day in 1907, and later lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to make Flag Day an official recognition. It was President Harry Truman, himself an Elk member, who signed an Act of Congress in 1949 that finally recognized Flag Day as an official holiday. For over 100 years members of Elks Lodge 339 have given countless hours on many projects and initiatives on behalf of the community and annually hold a ceremony to honor our Flag. Today, June 14, is the official date of Flag Day.
Establishment of a New Basic Education Funding Formula
Act 35 has been signed into law that establishes a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. Up until this point, funding was distributed through a “system” created in 1991 that primarily used poverty rates and local tax data to determine how much money a district would get. The old system also used a so-called “hold harmless clause” that said a district would not get less than it got the previous year regardless of whether enrollment went down or up. This resulted in the commonwealth having the greatest funding disparities among school districts compared to all 50 states, with some districts spending thousands of dollars more per child than others.
Before passage of Act 35, Pennsylvania was one of only three states that had no funding formula and it became very apparent that something needed to be done. For that reason, the Basic Education Funding Commission was created through Act 51 of 2014. This 15-member bipartisan, bicameral group was tasked with holding 15 hearings across Pennsylvania to develop a new data-driven funding formula. Over 11 months, the commission heard testimony from 110 experts and advocates in the education field, non profit 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.
Act 35 establishes a fair, equitable formula for allocating new funds to Pennsylvania schools by taking into account each district’s unique needs through factors that include the wealth of the district, the district’s current tax effort, and the ability of the district to raise revenue. It also includes student-based factors like:
- Number of children in the district who live in poverty,
- Number of children enrolled in charter schools, and
- Number of children who are English language learners.
Additionally, the new Basic Education Funding (BEF) Formula weans districts off of the hold-harmless clause.
It is also important to note that the new formula will only work if the General Assembly allocates additional funding to help restore the deep cuts of 2011 which took place under the Corbett Administration. By restoring these cuts, this will help ensure that all students are getting equitable access to quality public education which they all deserve as well as help close the achievement gap. It will also give school officials a more reliable way to know how much money they can expect to receive from the state each year rather than one legislator having greater influence over another. After all, Pennsylvania students should have equal opportunity to be educated at the highest standards.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is accepting applications for Automated Red Light Enforcement (ARLE) grants though June 30. Local governments, authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, rural planning organizations, county planning organizations and commonwealth agencies are all eligible to apply.
This program is intended to fund worthwhile, relatively low-cost projects that improve the safety and mobility of the traveling public. The kinds of eligible projects vary widely from improvements to traffic signals, to roadway improvements at signalized intersections, to school zones, guiderail, and roadside safety. There is no local match requirement but cost sharing is encouraged.
For more information on the program and to download an application, please click here or visit www.dot.state.pa.us/signals.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Deadline Extended
The deadline to file for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue 2015 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program has been extended through December 31. Rebate distribution will begin on July 1 for anyone who returned their completed application by June 30. After June 30, rebates will be distributed as claims are reviewed and processed by the Department of Revenue.
If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received a 2015 application by now. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications are available at www.revenue.pa.gov or at 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 half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past eligibility limits.
Did You Know…
Did you know as of May 20, the Department of Revenue had received 439,686 rebate applications?
12th Annual FontanaFest – DATE CHANGE!
Due to a scheduling conflict at Highmark Stadium, I want to let everyone know that the 12th Annual FontanaFest has been rescheduled for Saturday, September 24 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Once again, parking will be free in the stadium’s West Lot, compliments of Forest City!
The annual community event is perfect for families and children, promoting healthy and active lifestyles by providing many fun activities and crafts. Children will also have the chance to play on several inflatables, an obstacle course, and a climbing wall. All 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, and much more. I’m also thrilled that once again this year, students from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre will join us to perform at 11:15 a.m.!
Stay tuned throughout the summer for updates on the schedule of events, participants, and more.
Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Today is the day qualifying seniors in Allegheny County can pick up vouchers for locally grown fruits and vegetables. The distribution of voucher checks will take place today at senior centers throughout Allegheny County. Checks are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Seniors are asked to bring identification showing proof of age and residency to the distribution site.
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a federal program that is administered at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This program attempts to provide seniors who are nutritionally at risk a means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from approved Pennsylvania farmers.
The program provides recipients with four $5 voucher checks for a total year benefit of $20 to redeem at qualified farmers’ markets. Checks may be spent through November 30 on produce that is grown in Pennsylvania or purchased directly from a Pennsylvania farmer.
Some examples of produce that may be purchased with the vouchers are apples, beans, berries, carrots, grapes, melons, spinach and tomatoes. Customers must spend the entire $5 check and change will not be given.
To be eligible for the program, individuals must be an Allegheny County resident who will be 60 years old by December 31, 2016. The income limit for a one-person household is $21,978 and is $29,637 for a two-person household. Married couples may each receive one set of checks. If an eligible consumer requires a proxy to receive their checks, the proxy is responsible for signing for and spending the checks for the individual. All individuals must completely fill out a proxy form in order to have a proxy receive checks for them.
For a complete listing of voucher check distribution locations and times, or to download a proxy form, please visit the Allegheny County Department of Human Services website at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/olderadults.aspx. A listing of distribution sites, farmers’ market locations and proxy forms can also be picked up in my district offices. Anyone with questions on the program can also call the Allegheny County SeniorLine at 412-350-5460.
PA’s Outdoor Recreation Plan – Nation’s Best
Pennsylvania has earned top national honors for its work to transform outdoor recreation planning and get residents to spend more time outdoors. At a recent conference in Idaho, Pennsylvania’s five-year Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan was honored as the best in the nation by the National Park Service and the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals.
Pennsylvania’s five-year outdoor recreation plan was released in June 2015. The plan identified walking for pleasure or fitness as the most popular outdoor recreation activity. It establishes a goal of having a trail within 15 minutes of every Pennsylvania citizen. The statewide plan outlines 20 recommendations and 83 action steps. The national review team specifically recognized the plan for comprehensive data collection, well-crafted writing, and an implementation plan that is robust.
States must update outdoor recreation plans every five years to continue to be eligible for related federal dollars. More than 10,000 people provided input into the plan’s strategy development.
To view the plan, please visit www.paoutdoorrecplan.com.
Beechview Track Renewal Project
I want to remind everyone that the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) has created a web page dedicated specifically to the light rail track reconstruction project in Beechview which can be accessed by clicking here or visiting www.portauthority.org and clicking on the link titled “Red Line Construction” under Rider Alerts. Visitors can get updated information on the project, sign up to receive regular email updates from PAT, and communicate with other residents on a message board. You may also request information or ask questions about the project by contacting PAT via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PAT began a necessary reconstruction project of the light rails that run along Broadway Avenue in Beechview on March 27. The project is expected to take approximately six months to complete.
During the project, Beechview remains open for business so please continue patronizing local businesses!
Summer Food Program for Children
As of yesterday, children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Allegheny County Summer Food program. Summer Food will run in over 80 locations in Allegheny County through August. At these locations, children can receive a free breakfast and lunch during the summer recess from school. For more information on the program, including information on locations and times, please call the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838. You may also view a listing of Summer Food program sites by clicking here.
Dormont Summer Reading Program
Dormont Library is kicking off its Summer Reading program this Saturday at 11 a.m. with a “Peanuts” extravaganza. They will offer programming for children and their families throughout the course of the Summer Reading program, as well as an opportunity for both children and adults to earn fantastic prizes for reading books checked out of the library. Interested participants of all ages are welcome to register for Summer Reading Club events by visiting the library on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dormontlibary, stopping in the library, or calling 412-531-8754. The Summer Reading program runs through July 30.
Former boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74 on June 3. Ali’s only professional fight in Pittsburgh took place on January 24, 1963 at the Civic Arena. A then Civic Arena record crowd of over 11,000 watched the 21-year old then Cassius Clay, defeat Charlie Powell in a third round knockout in his 17th professional fight.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Lawrenceville (Mobile Office)
279 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursdays - 11 am - 4 pm