Susquehanna Community School District

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Susquehanna School District
Location
3192 Turnpike St.
Susquehanna, PA 18847

Susquehanna, Pennsylvania
USA
District information
Type Public
Grades Pre-Kindergarten12
Superintendent Mr. Bronson Stone
Schools 2
Students and staff
District mascot Saber
Other information
Website www.scschools.org

Susquehanna Community is a third-class school district in Susquehanna and Wayne Counties in Pennsylvania. The district's population was 5,195 at the time of the 2010 United States Census.

The district covers approximately 101 square miles (260 km2). According to federal census data, its population has decreased by 299 residents from 5,494 residents in 2000. The district students are 97% white, 1% Asian, 1% black and 1% Hispanic.[1] According to District officials, in the school year 2007–08, the Susquehanna Community School District provided basic educational services to 963 pupils through the employment of 82 teachers, 51 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 6 administrators.

The district operates one elementary school and one combined junior-senior high school.

Regions and constituent municipalities[edit]

The district is divided into three regions, which include the following municipalities (labeled by county):[2]

Region I[edit]

Region II[edit]

Region III[edit]

Governance[edit]

The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[3] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "D-" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[4]

Academic achievement[edit]

Susquehanna Community School District was ranked 253rd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on student academic performance based on the PSSAs for: reading, writing, math and two years of science.[5]

  • 2011 - 241st
  • 2010 - 236th
  • 2009 – 266th
  • 2008 – 276th
  • 2007 – 256th out of 501 Pennsylvania school districts.[6]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Susquehanna Community School District ranked 24th. In 2011 the district was 7th. The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[7]

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Susquehanna Community School District, was in the 60th percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0–99; 100 is state best)[8]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011 the graduation rate of Susquehanna Community School District was 93%.[9] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Susquehanna Community High School's rate was 88% for 2010.[10]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations:

  • 2010 – 91%[11]
  • 2009 – 93%
  • 2008 – 96%[12]
  • 2007 – 96%[13]

Junior Senior High School[edit]

Susquehanna Community Junior Senior High School is located at 3192 Turnpike Street, Susquehanna. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 371 pupils in grades 7th through 12th, with 180 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 31 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[14] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[15]

In 2010 and 2011, Susquehanna Community Junior Senior High School achieved AYP. In 2009 the school was in School Improvement level 1 AYP status due to low student achievement.[16]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 68% on grade level, (10% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[17]
  • 2010 – 64% (21% below basic). State - 66% [18]
  • 2009 – 67% (14% below basic), State – 65%[19]
  • 2008 – 65% (21% below basic), State – 65%[20]
  • 2007 – 59% (16% below basic), State – 65%[21]
11th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 69% on grade level (19% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[22]
  • 2010 – 65% (24% below basic). State – 59%
  • 2009 – 59% (21% below basic). State – 56%
  • 2008 – 40% (37% below basic). State – 56%[23]
  • 2007 – 54% (21% below basic). State – 53%
11th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 40% on grade level (3% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[24]
  • 2010 – 41% (10% below basic), State – 39%
  • 2009 – 45% (12% below basic). State – 40%
  • 2008 – 41% (9% below basic). State – 39%

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 15% of Susquehanna Community Senior High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[25] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[26] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high school offers the Pennsylvania dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[27] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[28] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[29]

In 2010, the district received a $6,463 state grant to be used to assist students with tuition, fees and books. The grant program was discontinued in 2011, but the dual enrollment program remains available.

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 37 students at Susquehanna Community School District students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 489. The Math average score was 509. The Writing average score was 464.[30] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[31] In the United States 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[32]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Susquehanna Community School District School Board has established that 25 credits are required for graduation, including English 4 credits, Social Studies 4 credits, Science 3 credits, Math 3 credits, Arts Humanities 2 credits, Health and Physical Education 1 credit, Technology 1 credit and seven elective courses.[33]

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[34]

By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[35]

Eighth grade[edit]

8th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 84% on grade level, 67% advanced (13% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.
  • 2010 – 75% on grade level. 43% advanced (11% below basic) State – 81%[36]
  • 2009 – 81%, 50% advanced (12% below basic), State – 80%
  • 2008 – 77%, 47% advanced (11% below basic), State – 78%
  • 2007 – 77%, 38% advanced (8% below basic), State – 75%[37]
8th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 75% on grade level 58% advanced (13% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 – 78% on grade level 59% advanced (11% below basic) State – 75%
  • 2009 – 69%, 43% advanced (17% below basic), State – 71%
  • 2008 – 69%, 44% advanced (19% below basic), State – 70%[38]
  • 2007 – 66%, 42% advanced (10% below basic), State – 67%
8th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 68% on grade level 30% advanced (15% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 – 60% on grade level 29% advanced (18% below basic). State – 57%.
  • 2009 – 70%, State – 54%[39]
  • 2008 – 63%, State – 52%[40]
7th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 79% on grade level, 51% advanced (8% below basic). State – 76%
  • 2010 – 85%, 47% advanced (12% below basic) State – 73%
  • 2009 – 68%, 47% advanced (6% below basic). State – 71%
  • 2008 – 66%, 28% advanced (14% below basic). State – 70%
  • 2007 – 77%, 38% advanced (8% below basic). State – 66%
7th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 87% on grade level, 72% advanced (9% below basic). State - 78.6%
  • 2010 – 84%, 71% advanced (10% below basic) State – 77%
  • 2009 – 80%, 58% advanced (9% below basic), State – 75%
  • 2008 – 75%, 50% advanced (15% below basic), State – 72%
  • 2007 – 74%, 41% advanced (10% below basic), State – 67%

Elementary School[edit]

Susquehanna Community Elementary School is located at 3192 Turnpike Street, Susquehanna. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 505 pupils in preschool through 6th grade, with 289 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 42 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[41] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[42] In 2010 and 2011, Susquehanna Community Elementary School achieved AYP status.[43] In 2011, only 67% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 6th with 17% below basic. In math, 80% of the students in 3rd through 6th grades were on grade level and 44% scored advanced. In 4th grade science, 88% of the pupils were on grade level, with 55% advanced.[44]

Attendance rate was 94% in 2010 and 2009. The school offers taxpayer funded Kindergarten for 4 year olds and for 5 year olds.

6th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 62%, 30% advance (23% below basic). State - 69.9% [45]
  • 2010 – 80%, 42% advanced (10% below basic) State – 68%
  • 2009 – 88%, 63% advanced (0% below basic), State – 67%
  • 2008 – 81%, 20% advanced (0% below basic), State – 67%
  • 2007 – 59%, 25% advanced (16% below basic), State – 63%
6th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 73% on grade level, 40% advanced (8% below basic). State - 78.8%
  • 2010 – 88% on grade level. 70% advanced (2% below basic) State – 78%
  • 2009 – 95%, 88% advanced (2% below basic), State – 75.9% [46]
  • 2008 – 95%, 78% advanced (0% below basic), State – 72%
  • 2007 – 79%, 33% advanced (6% below basic), State – 69%
5th Grade Reading;
  • 2011 - 56% on grade level, 5% advanced (27% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 67.3% of 5th graders are on grade level.
  • 2010 – 55%, 15% advanced (19% below basic), State – 64%[47]
  • 2009 – 72%, 35% advanced (7% below basic), State – 64%
  • 2008 – 71%, 23% advanced (10% below basic), State – 62%
  • 2007 – 61%, 18% advanced (7% below basic), State – 60%
5th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 68% on grade level (7% below basic). State - 74%
  • 2010 – 68%, 26% advanced (8% below basic). State – 74%
  • 2009 – 93%, 50% advanced, State – 73%
  • 2008 – 83%, 49% advanced, State – 73%
  • 2007 – 82%, 35% advanced, State – 71%
4th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 71%, 32% advanced, (32% below basic). State – 73.3%
  • 2010 – 66%, 41% advanced, (41% below basic). State – 73%
  • 2009 – 75%, 25% advanced, State – 72%
  • 2008 – 80%, 40% advanced, State – 70%
  • 2007 – 81%, 36% advanced, State – 60%
4th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 90%, 52% advanced (5% below basic). State – 85.3%
  • 2010 – 85%, 61% advanced (8% below basic). State – 84%
  • 2009 – 88%, 62% advanced, State – 81%
  • 2008 – 92%, 80% advanced, State – 80%
  • 2007 – 90%, 68% advanced, State – 78%
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 88%, 55% advanced (3% below basic). State – 82.9%
  • 2010 – 86%, 59% advanced (3% below basic). State – 81%
  • 2009 – 91%, 59% advanced, State – 83%
  • 2008 – 98%, 78% advanced, State – 81%
3rd Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 74%, 21% advanced (14% below basic). State – 77%
  • 2010 – 81%, 21% advanced (10% below basic). State – 75%
  • 2009 – 68%, 14% advanced, State – 77%
  • 2008 – 76%, 16% advanced, State – 70%
  • 2007 – 75%, 25% advanced, State – 72%
3rd Grade Math
  • 2011 - 88%, 52% advanced (3% below basic). State – 83%
  • 2010 – 93%, 51% advanced (1% below basic). State – 84%
  • 2009 – 82%, 53% advanced, State – 81%
  • 2008 – 80%, 41% advanced, State – 80%
  • 2007 – 80%, 37% advanced, State – 78%

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 176 pupils or 19% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. Of those identified, 43% were identified as having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the district reported that 200 pupils or 22% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[48]

The District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress. To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Instructional Support Team or Student Assistance Team. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Special Education Department.[49]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[50] It assumes that each student’s needs accrue the same level of costs.[51] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[52] Overidentification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[53]

Susquehanna Community School District received a $1,002,435 supplement for special education services in 2010.[54] For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[55]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 5 or 0.68% of its students were gifted in 2009.[56] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The primary emphasis is on enrichment and acceleration of the regular education curriculum through a push in model with the gifted instructor in the classroom with the regular instructor. This approach permits such specialized instructional strategies as tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, flexible grouping, learning stations, independent projects and independent contracts. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to honors and advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[57]

Bullying policy[edit]

The Susquehanna Community School District administration reported there were no incidents of bullying in the district in 2009.[58][59]

The Susquehanna Community School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online.[60] All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[61] The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.[62]

Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.[63]

Budget[edit]

In 2009, the district reports employing over 80 teachers with a starting salary of $43,105 for 180 days for pupil instruction. The average teacher salary was $55,767 while the maximum salary is $101,910.[64] As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[65] Additionally, Susquehanna Community School District teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 sick days and other benefits. Teachers are paid extra if they are required to work outside of the regular school day. According to the 2009-2013 contracts teacher will receive a 4% raise each year.[66] According to State Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[67]

In 2007, the district employed 72 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $51,885 for 180 school days worked.[68] This was the second highest average teacher salary by district in Susquehanna County in 2007.

Susquehanna Community School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $908.57 per pupil. The district is ranked 99th out of 500 in Pennsylvania for administrative spending. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[69]

In 2008, Susquehanna Community School District reported spending $12,702 per pupil. This ranked 198th in the commonwealth.[70] In 2010 the per pupil spending had increased to $14,505.29 [71] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[72] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[73]

Reserves

In 2009, the district reported $3,160,093 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as $790,023.[74] In 2010, Susquehanna Community School District Administration reported $1,395,874.00 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance while the designated fund balance was $3,374,042. Pennsylvania school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[75]

The district initiated a major expenditure to reduce energy costs in July 2009. Spending over $1.3 million, the district anticipates reducing heating costs by 11% and electric costs by 22%.[76]

In September 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the administration and school board.[77] The district received more than $9.1 million in state funding in school year 2007–08.

In April 2011, the school district made significant adjustments in spending in response to a sharp decline in revenue. Two teacher's jobs were cut along with three others non-teaching jobs. The remaining teachers and staff took a one-year freeze in salaries. Among the other changes were instituting a fee for drivers education; reducing preschool for 4 year olds to a half day program; and a reduction in the late bus program. The district also received an anonymous $10,000 donation.[78][79]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes.[80] In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax regardless of the individual's wealth.[81]

State basic education funding[edit]

In 2011-12, Susquehanna Community School District received a $6,255,745 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[82][83] Additionally, the Susquehanna Community School District received $86,562 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget included $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[84] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[85] In 2010, the district reported that 471 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[86]

For 2010–11, the Susquehanna Community School District received a 2% increase in state Basic Education Funding resulting in a $6,570,485 payment.[87] Elk Lake School District received a 2.82% increase, which was the highest increase in BEF in Susquehanna County. Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County received the highest increase in the state at 23.65% increase in funding for the 2010–11 school year. One hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase in 2010–11. The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year.[88]

In the 2009–2010 budget year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2.97% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $6,441,652. The state Basic Education funding to the district in 2008–09 was $6,255,744.80. The district also received supplemental funding for English language learners, Title 1 federal funding for low-income students, for district size, a poverty supplement from the commonwealth and more.[89] Montrose Area School District received a 4.88% increase, the highest increase in Susquehanna County for the 2009–10 school year. Among the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding.[90] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 442 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[91]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004–2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students. For 2010–11 the Susquehanna Community School District applied for and received $234,951 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide pre kindergarten classes and full-day kindergarten for the 7th year.[92][93]

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006–2009. Susquehanna Community School District did not apply for funding in 2006–07. In 2007–08 the district received $102,756. For the 2008–09, school year the district received $45,413 for a total of $148,169. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[94]

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $176,655 in ARRA – Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like Title 1, special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[95] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[96] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised to use the funds for one-time expenditures like acquiring equipment, making repairs to buildings, training teachers to provide more effective instruction or purchasing books and software.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

Susquehanna Community School District officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[97][98] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[99] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[100] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[101]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Susquehanna Community School Board chose to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[102] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement any of the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

The Susquehanna Community School Board set property tax rates in 2011–12 at 43.3300 mills for properties in Susquehanna County. Property in Wayne County pay 14.2900 mills.[103] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75–85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections (Local Tax Enabling Act), which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[104] The school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, necessitating a state board equalization of the tax rates between the counties.[105] In 2010, miscalculations by the board were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts.[106]

  • 2010-11 - 42.3100 mills for Susquehanna County and 14.1800 mills for Wayne County properties [107]
  • 2009–10 – 41.3100 mills for Susquehanna County and 13.71 mills for Wayne County[108]
  • 2008–09 – 40.7900 mills in Susquehanna County and Wayne County – 13.3300 mills.[109]
  • 2007-08 - 39.8500 mills for Susquehanna County and 14.0100 mills for Wayne County properties [110]
  • 2006-07 - 39.8500 mills for Susquehanna County and 9.8900 mills for Wayne County properties [111]

Act 1 Adjusted index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not authorized to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011–2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[112] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[113] The following exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.[114][115]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Susquehanna Community School District 2006–2007 through 2010–2011.[116]

  • 2006–07 – 6.0%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007–08 – 5.2%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008–09 – 6.7%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009–10 – 6.3%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010–11 – 4.4%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011–12 – 2.1%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.5%, Base 1.7% [117]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Susquehanna Community School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[118]

For the 2011-12 school year, Susquehanna Community School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[119]

According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[120]

Susquehanna Community School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2009–10 or in 2010–11.[121][122] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[123]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Susquehanna Community School District was $301 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1,324 property owners applied for the tax relief.[124] The tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property on the individual's tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. The Pennsylvania Auditor General found that 48% of property owners applied for tax relief in Susquehanna County.[125] In Susquehanna County, the highest property tax relief in 2009 was awarded to the approved property owners in Blue Ridge School District. Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[126] This was the second year Chester Upland School District was the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals who have income substantially more than $35,000, may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[127]

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[128]

Enrollment[edit]

Susquehanna Community School District is experiencing low enrollment in K-12. The Pennsylvania Department of Education projects the district's enrollment will remain below 900 pupils through 2018.[129] Shifting population trends across the U.S. and Pennsylvania are affecting school enrollment and may impact the building needs of school districts in the years to come.[130] Over the next 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment is projected to decrease 8 percent. The most significant enrollment decline is projected to be in western Pennsylvania, where rural school districts may have a 16 percent decline. More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania are projected to experience significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater).[131]

A study done by Standard and Poors in 2007 (at the request of the PA General Assembly) examined the consolidation of district administrations would yield saving where the resulting district had 3000 pupils or less.[132] Superintendent were asked about savings, if their district were to merge with another district at the administrative level only, but not close any of their schools. It found 42% of survey respondents thought consolidation could achieve cost reductions. Additionally, 63% of responding superintendents believed that consolidation with another district would help provide additional academic enrichment opportunities for the students.[133] In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any schools.[134]

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. Less than 95 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts have enrollment below 1250 students, in 2007.[135]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The Susquehanna Community School District offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility to participate is set by school board policies.[136][137]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those home schooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[138][139][140]

The superintendent made preserving the extracurricular programs a priority in the budgeting for the 2011–12 school year.[78]

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