Any further legislation to enable school districts to consolidate into a county-wide district is wholly unnecessary.
Should two, four, or six local school districts desire to merge together, they can already do so under the current School
The question arises, then, why, as state Rep. Tim Mahoney has done again today
, the push for a local county-wide referendum to put the question of merging all school districts on the "county"
ballot. And to put the measure on the ballot by November, 2011?
Consider Rep. Tim Mahoney's legislation which enables the board of county commissioners to put the question on the ballot
for all of the county voters. When did this legislation pass the General Assembly? We can't find mention that
such has happened anywhere on the Internet.
The legislation needs scrutinized further because the legislation requires a mere 3/4th majority of county voters
to approve the referendum, then all of the school districts, whether they want to or not, must consolidate into the county-wide
Another concern arises by the push to put a countywide consolidation question on the November, 2011 county ballot (however
that will be done as current law does not enable this) is this is the same Election wherein as the Herald-Standard.com crows
for the first time ever there are challengers to school board director incumbents in each of the area school districts.
We could see the true will of the people in a local area district expressed by overwhelmingly voting for those candidates
who are "dead set" against Rep. Mahoney's plan for countywide consolidation.
We may see the same thing in 4 other districts happen. Candidates for school board director who are "dead set"
against the countywide consolidation plan could be winners.
At the same time, if the board of county commissioners has placed the resolution on the ballot for countwide consolidation
- we could see a huge turnout of voters in a wealthier and higher populated school district over smaller school districts.
Since only 3/4ths of the voters who turn out to vote is all that is required to pass the referendum, we could see 1 geographic
area of voters edge the referendum through. Thus, effectively bypassing the majority will in the other districts!
As far as we are aware, House Bill 351 has not yet passed in the PA General Assembly. Unless it does before November,
2011, the board of commissioners have not authority to place a referendum on the ballot for voters of the county to consider
altering another governmental body, that of school districts.
A PA Economy League report, direct link here
, and discussion here
, details existing procedures for both municipal governments to join (ability to reset boundaries) and for school districts
to merge, (also with ability to reset boundaries), but the power of referendum so far only applies to municipal governments,
not school districts regarding outright consolidation.
School districts can currently formally merge and consolidate without need of a local referendum on the county ballot.
How will that be managed? The legislation as proposed by Rep. Tim Mahoney to our knowledge did not make it out
of legislative committees where it resided back in 2009.
We have not read any report that says HB 351 has passed.
Also, in reading the PA Economy League Report, the statement is made:
The process to complete a merger of school districts differs from the municipal process
principally because no public referendum is required to approve the merger.
We further question whether an attempt to initiate a referendum process may be made in August in time for a 90-day leeway
which applies to municipalities for placing mergers before the public in a referendum?
We then ponder whether the entire effort towards a referendum process for Fayette County is not for the People, but rather
is an end-run around those local districts, let's say, Brownsville, for instance, who have been opposed to county-wide consolidation
and outright consolidation with another out-of-the area district.
That's not to say Brownsville and other districts are not accepting of informal cost-savings measures.
House Bill 351 P.N. 382
also presents the measure is for "taxation purposes" and for "uniform curriculum" among the grades for which they were
We discuss these situations in more depth on this site in separate pages.
PA Economy League Report
includes notice school districts do not need a referendum on the ballot in order to merge, loosely merge i.e. share services,
or outright 'voluntarily' consolidate.
Not Enough Said:
The Standard and Poor Study on the Cost Effectiveness of Consolidating Pennsylvania School Districts is very clear on
Sharing services can yield savings without consolidating districts. Many districts already share
services with other districts and, in some cases, with local municipalities. The PA Dept. of General Services also has programs
that give districts the ability to increase their purchasing power.
PA Economy League Report
..School districts in the Commonwealth are governed by the Pennsylvania Public School Code
of 1949 as amended and other legislation, by regulations of the State Board of Education, and by standards of the State Department
of Education. These laws, regulations, and standards impart a considerable amount of discretionary power to locally elected
school boards and district superintendents. School districts in Pennsylvania represent a mixture of Commonwealth authority
and local status as a school district, as well as status as a “government” entity with taxing powers similar to
local municipalities in the Commonwealth. Indeed, school districts collect approximately 60 to 70 percent of all local real
estate taxes levied in the Commonwealth.
Process for School District Merger or Consolidation
Unlike municipalities, there is no special legislative act similar to the 1994 municipal boundary change legislation
that applies to school districts. Several sections of the Public Schoo Code establish basic procedures for a merger of school
districts and the involvement of the State’s Board of Education. These procedures can be summarized as follows:
A majority vote (5 of 9 members) of all boards involved is required;
An application must be filed with the Secretary of Education;
The State Board of Education must approve the application. Approval is to
be granted by the State Board of Education as it deems appropriate and in the best interests of
MERGER/CONSOLIDATION REVIEW CASE STUDIES 2009 APRIL 2009
Pennsylvania Economy League, Central Division 1-6 the education system
of the Commonwealth. If the State Board of Education does not approve, the application must be referred to the applying districts
for resubmission in accordance with the recommendations of the State Board of Education;
The Secretary of Education issues a certificate creating the new school
district. The certificate lists the district name, components, classification, and the effective date of operation.
Other sections of the Public School Code that affect mergers of school districts includes sections for the treatment
of existing indebtedness of the merged school districts, provisions for the amicable adjustment and apportionment of debt
and property, and provisions for the election of school directors in the merged district.
As part of the process of voting to approve a merger, the boards of the merging complement school districts
must agree on at least six items:
The name of the school district;
The name of the superintendent, salary, and length of contract;
The administrative structure of the district;
The buildings to be operated by the district;
Which area vocational technical school the new Districts’ pupils will
The timeframe for the merger.
As of the writing of this report, there have been two recent attempts at merging school districts; Center and
Monaca in Beaver County and Halifax and Millersburg in Dauphin County.
The merger of Center and Monaca was recently approved by both school boards and the State Board of Education;
the boards of Halifax and Millersburg decided not to pursue additional steps to complete the merger but did decide to partner
in educational and other relevant activities as much as practical.