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Feds reject Pa.'s school property tax relief plan


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
November 16, 2020
A budget deadline, meet Pa.'s presidential electors, no lockdowns, Trump backs off, sports history, and a unique 444-mile trip. Yes, it's Monday.

For more than a decade, state lawmakers have sent yearly payments to Pennsylvania’s school districts so they can lower residents' property tax bills.

These payments are funded by gambling revenue, which has taken a major hit because of the coronavirus. So Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans who control the legislature needed to come up with a way to plug the gap.

So they turned to federal coronavirus stimulus money, passing a plan to use up to $300 million toward the promised $621 million in property tax relief.

But in mid-September, the feds rejected that plan, Spotlight PA has learned. School districts are now waiting for the last $200 million, having already approved tax rates based on what they expected to receive from the state.

THE CONTEXT: School officials are hopeful lawmakers will straighten out the issue soon as they face a Nov. 30 deadline to pass a budget for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.

It won't be an easy task. Some Democrats are estimating a $2.9 billion budget gap through the end of June, which could mean some tough choices ahead.

As for the federal stimulus money, there is still about $1.3 billion that has yet to be allocated. The money can only be used for costs directly attributed to the public health emergency, and not plugging the budget — such as the property tax relief plan. If they fail to allocate the money, it will go to the 60 least-populated counties — and they won't have much time to spend it.

All federal coronavirus cash must be spent by the end of the year.


"With a critical mass of certified gardens, the goal is to create corridors for wildlife to thrive."

— Linda Ferich, of the Lancaster Conservancy, on efforts to create more wildlife corridors to offset habitat loss and climate change

POST IT: A great capture of a Ginkgo tree near Carlisle by Lynda M. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
2020's TOP 20: With President Donald Trump and other Republicans attempting to sow doubt in Pennsylvania’s election integrity, the state's 20 presidential electors are likely to get more attention this year. Here’s a look, by Spotlight PA and Votebeat, at who they are and what responsibilities they have.

NOT THE ANSWER: State officials in Pennsylvania are holding off on implementing new shutdowns, even as daily reported coronavirus cases break records. While it may seem counterintuitive not to turn back to stay-at-home orders and business closures, public health experts who spoke to Spotlight PA said widespread lockdowns aren’t the answer.

YES, THERE'S MORE: Sick of elections? Don't look now, because Pennsylvania is gearing up for what promises to be a busy campaign season leading up to 2022, LNP | LancasterOnline reports. Voters here will get to choose both a U.S. senator and governor, a political rarity given that both races will have open seats.

BACKING OFF: President Trump's campaign scrapped a major part of its federal lawsuit challenging the election results in Pennsylvania, according to The Washington Post. The campaign removed allegations that election officials violated its constitutional rights by limiting the ability of their observers to watch the vote count. 

'HAVE A VOICE': Despite big voter turnout across the board in the Lehigh Valley, many in the Hispanic community opted not to vote. Latino leaders fear this means these residents aren't being heard, The Morning Call reports. A similar drop in turnout was seen in areas of Philadelphia with a high Latino population, per The Inquirer.
» THIS IS JOURNALISM WORTH SUPPORTING: We can't do it without you. Join Spotlight PA today and your contribution will be DOUBLED.

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(NOT) A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW: When Joe Biden officially becomes president in January, he'll be just the second native Pennsylvanian to do so. The first? The disastrous James Buchanan, who was "completely out of touch with what a majority of Americans wanted."

HIDDEN SECRET: A trip to Egypt out of the question these days? This fun Tik Tok highlights a really cool site in Bucks County that features pyramids and other awesome features.

A PIECE OF SPORTS HISTORY: The basketball hoop the late legend Kobe Bryant used at his childhood home in Wynnewood — just outside of Philadelphia — will go up for auction early next year. Bryant was a star at Lower Merion High School before heading directly to the NBA.

444 MILES: Three friends paddled kayaks the full length of the Susquehanna River, from Cooperstown, New York to Havre de Grace, Maryland. You can see pictures from the trip — including really stunning shots in Pennsylvania — and read about how they prepared.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRIP: OK, so maybe a 400-plus-mile kayak trip doesn't sound too fun. What about a scenic train ride through some of Pennsylvania's most beautiful spots?

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. If you love the scrambler, make a donation and we'll DOUBLE it.
C A I S R D N E E H M 

Friday's answer: Championship 

Congrats to our weekly winner: Kim C.

Congrats to Friday's winners: Karen A., Ann S., Bill C., David I., Irene R., Theodore W., Mary Ellen T., Lynne E., Carol D., George S., Joel S., Craig W., Patricia R., Chris W., Ed M., Jeffery S., Ron P., Robert S., Anne R., and David W.
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