Pennsylvania schools could see 5% revenue loss, group says

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts are facing a projected loss of as much as 5% in the revenue from local taxes as the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns take a heavy toll on the economy, a leading public schools group said Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officers said it is projecting a loss of $1 billion, or 5%, in revenue from local school taxes if economic recovery lags. A quicker turnaround could limit the damage to a loss of $850 million, or 4%, the group said.

School districts reported spending about $30 billion in the 2017-2018 school year, according to state data, the latest available for that statistic. About $17.5 billion in revenue that year came from local sources, primarily property taxes, and $11.5 billion came from the state, according to the data.

Rising unemployment will probably mean a loss in real estate transfer tax revenue as the economic downturn slows the real estate market, Timothy Shrom, director of research for the school business association, said in a written statement.

Property tax revenue will decline as people need more time to pay, and interest rate reductions will depress interest earnings, Shrom said.

Meanwhile, a massive deficit facing state government, as well as a delayed July 15 deadline for filing taxes, is casting doubt on how much state aid schools can expect.

In other coronavirus-related developments in Pennsylvania:

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CASES

More than 1,200 additional cases of the coronavirus were reported in Pennsylvania on Tuesday by the state Health Department, raising the total to more than 43,200.

The agency reported 119 additional deaths, boosting the statewide total to above 1,700 deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. The department, however, does not have statistics on how many of those people reported to be infected have since had a full recovery.

Most hospitalizations and deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older, officials said. The disease has spread to every county in the state.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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DELAYING COMMUTATIONS

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who chairs the state Board of Pardons, said he will indefinitely delay a June consideration of dozens of requests for clemency from state prison inmates while the coronavirus outbreak threatens public health.

Fetterman said it was to the largest such collection of requests to be considered at one single board meeting.

However, he said, it is impossible to hold the meeting and give each inmate due consideration, including in-person interviews, while protecting the health of the inmates and the board members during the outbreak.

Requests for clemency require in-person interviews with board members in a cramped prison meeting room and then closed-door discussion between board members in group settings, Fetterman said Tuesday.

It would be grossly unfair to inmates who have applied for commutation to deny them their in-person prison visits and interviews, Fetterman said.

Currently, prisons are closed to visitors to help prevent the virus’s spread, and the state Capitol, where the five-member Board of Pardons meets, is closed also to those without electronic key card access.

Fetterman said work continues on cases, however, and he hopes to reschedule the hearings within 30 days of the reopening of the Capitol Complex.

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