Fair Funding for Education
Pennsylvania is one of only three states without a state funding formula for education. As a school board member, Joe Ciresi sees firsthand how the state underfunds school districts in western Montgomery County. No Montgomery County school district receives more than a third of its budget from the state, with Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley receiving less than 20% each. Meanwhile, the statewide average is 56% and some school districts in the rest of the state receive over 70% of their budgets from the state. This disparity and underfunding of our schools unfairly raises property taxes in our district. Joe Ciresi will fight for a fair funding formula that allocates state money based on actual need, which would result in millions of dollars more to every local school district, reducing property taxes and improving educational outcomes for our children.
Property Tax Reform
Pennsylvania has one of the highest property tax burdens in the country, and southeastern Pennsylvania stands out with the highest property taxes in the state. As a homeowner, Joe understands the very real problem of high property taxes in our region, and the burden that it places on homeowners, families, and seniors. However, property taxes are an especially big problem in southeast Pennsylvania, simply because most of our school budgets come from local tax revenue instead of from the state, unlike school districts in western and northern Pennsylvania. This is why Joe will be a strong advocate for fair funding for education, which will bring millions of dollars back to our school districts and lower property taxes for local residents.
But as a school member, Joe also sees areas in which we can save money in the education system. The overwhelming majority of school expenses are mandated by the state: for example, the state mandates 65% of Spring-Ford School District’s budget, but only provides 19% of its budget. These mandates are provided by a school code written in 1949, and some of them go back to the 1800s. Joe will use his experience to work with education stakeholders in rewriting the school code, removing mandates that don’t provide any educational value, and passing along the savings to our taxpayers. Through a combination of fair funding for education and reducing expenses through educational mandate reform, we can achieve meaningful relief for our property owners.
Restoring Passenger Train Service
Everyone who has driven along Route 422 during rush hour (as Joe does on his daily commute to Philadelphia) knows that our region has a major transportation problem. After rail service between Philadelphia and Pottstown ended in 1981, our region saw an explosion in population growth, putting a large strain on local roads and highways. Passenger rail service would provide valuable relief to our infrastructure, taking thousands of cars off our highways and providing a regional link that would revitalize our boroughs and boost local economies.
Our region provides a significant amount of revenue to the state in general income/sales taxes, transportation gas taxes, and Turnpike toll fees. For too long, that money has been diverted to fund projects in the rest of the state, with our region being neglected. Joe Ciresi will fight to make sure that the 146th district and western Montgomery County has a strong and loud voice in Harrisburg, and that we get our fair share of funding for the state. One of his top priorities will be making sure that passenger rail service restoration between Pottstown and Philadelphia becomes a priority for the state, and he will stand strongly against any proposal that would involve tolling Rt 422.
As we saw with the recent 10-month budget impasse in Harrisburg, our state legislator has forgotten how to work together to get the job done. As a school board member, Joe understands the importance of passing an on-time and balanced budget every year, and he has worked with his fellow board members, both Democrats and Republicans, to get this basic function of government accomplished. This is why they came together to elect him President of the Spring-Ford School Board when he was the only Democrat serving on it, and just last year they unanimously elected him Vice President. Together with his fellow board members, Joe reduced debt in the school district by $125 million and moved the school district into the top 2% in the state.
Only three states have lower credit ratings than Pennsylvania does now, and credit agencies are threatening further downgrades as Pennsylvania continues to fail the basic task of budgeting, as well as addressing structural deficits. Standard & Poor’s specifically cited the “lack of political will” to make budgeting decisions in its March 2016 warning to the state, and lower credit ratings mean higher interest rates and higher interest payments for Pennsylvania taxpayers. Joe Ciresi will work to restore common sense budgeting to Harrisburg, work with members of both parties to reduce government inefficiency and waste, and find reasonable new sources of revenue through passing a natural gas severance tax and closing corporate tax loopholes.