Future state funding for some Northside institutions uncertain


Northside institutions and service providers could face deep cuts if the budget proposal by Gov. Tom Corbett passes, although some are more concerned than others.

If the budget, which cuts nearly $1 billion from basic education across Pennsylvania, passes as is in June, the Northside will not escape unscathed.

Pittsburgh Public Schools alone will lose a total of $34.1 million total, according to a press release. Community colleges statewide could face cuts totaling $23.6 million, and libraries face $1 million more in cuts, after cuts over the past two years.

PPS Superintendent Linda Lane release a statement last week addressing the issue, and this week released a greatly reduced capital spending budget for the upcoming school year.

“Improving student achievement is incredibly hard work in urban areas like Pittsburgh,” Lane said in her statement. “The state funding cuts to education, as proposed by the governor, will severely hamper our ability to continue to make progress toward our shared goal of improving the life prospects of our students.”

District spokesperson Ebony Pugh said it’s too early in the process to know exactly how Northside schools will fare under the proposed state budget, if it passes, but that every school in the district will feel some impact.

Lane said in her statement that under these reductions, Pittsburgh Public Schools will have to cut all of its after school programs, which serve almost 4,000 students, including many on the Northside.

The Community College of Allegheny County, headquartered in Allegheny West, also stands to lose out under the current state budget proposal.

CCAC spokesman David Hoovler said community colleges statewide will suffer a $23.6 million reduction in funding. If the state follows the current formula for distributing the money to community colleges across the state, CCAC will lose $3.5 million.

Hoovler stressed that he did not know for sure how much CCAC might lose, but that any cut would affect CCAC’s ability to provide quality, affordable higher education at all its campuses, including Allegheny.

Much of the community college cuts come from a loss of federal stimulus funds, Hoovler said. A full 9 percent of the $23.6 million comes from stimulus funds, with an additional $2 million from the basic education fund.

“It’s bad but it’s not going to put us out of business,” he said. “We’ve been working to take a proactive approach.”

At this point in time, he said the college did not know whether or not it would have to raise tuition, as the state budget has not yet been approved, and won’t be for some months.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, already struggling to find sustainable sources of cash, could lose funding as well. The budget calls for a $1 million reduction statewide in library funding.

According to a press release, CLP has lost $1.3 million in state funding over the past two years.

Spokesperson Suzanne Thinnes said that the library is working to make the government understand the role libraries play in communities before a final budget is passed over the summer.

It is not yet clear how further funding cuts might affect either of the two Northside branch libraries, Thinnes said.

“[The budget cut] only enhances the need to find long term sustainable funding,” Thinnes said. “We were fortunate that we didn’t receive as large of a cut as some other line items.”

Mental health services, another area that has faced significant reductions in funding nationally, so far has escaped Corbett’s axe.

Mercy Behavioral Health’s Director of Community and Government Relations Jane Miller said that so far, Mercy has not received any cuts in program funding.

Mercy still must be vigilant, Miller said, because the budget is not final and money could be shifted around before a final budget is approved by the state legislature. For many people, Mercy’s varied mental and behavioral health services is a safety net and their only resource.

And although Mercy at this point does not face state budget cuts, Miller said she worried that budget cuts in other areas could affect Mercy’s ability to provide services from its Northside locations as well as others.

For example, people who were covered under the state’s Adult Basic health care program may no longer be able to afford a visit their primary care physician, and will not have the opportunity to be referred to Mercy.

Or, Miller said, the programs they run through the school district could be cut because of cuts to education funding.

“You have to look around and figure out how people get referred to behavioral health services,” Miller said. “We have to be vigilant, and we have to educate folks.”

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