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Pittsburgh: Fewer students/higher costs/higher taxes; more mental health services needed

Dec 2, 2019, Pittsburgh Tribune: Budget hearing for Pittsburgh schools addresses mental health programs, state oversight Many residents who came to a public hearing Monday on the 2020 Pittsburgh Public Schools budget didn’t focus on the spending plan that includes a 2.3% rise in property taxes collected by the district, the first tax increase in five years. Instead, the bigger concern was the district’s spending on school security and policing instead of allocating more resources to counseling and intervention programs for students. Dr. Claire Cohen, a psychiatrist from Point Breeze, said the district needs to allocate more funding to counseling and mental health programs for students and less to police and security of schools. The budget proposal includes $7.2 million to be spent on school safety and includes 92 positions. The support staff of the district, which covers services such as the counseling and intervention programs Cohen referenced, makes up $11.7 million of the budget and has 88 staff members…. On Nov. 12, Mayor Bill Peduto called for state oversight of the school district’s finances, similar to the Act 47 oversight the city was under from 2005 until 2018. Cheryle Diethorn of Crafton Heights supported Peduto’s position and said the district needs to spend the money it now takes in more responsibly. “We’ve proved increasing taxes doesn’t make achievement better. There has to be a better way,” Diethorn said after the hearing. “I’m concerned about the achievement of our students.”… In early November, Superintendent Anthony Hamlet raised the idea of a property tax hike. The 2.3% hike in would help cover a $27.3 million projected deficit in the $665.6 million budget proposed for the schools…. Peduto said school district spending has increased by $137 million since he was elected mayor in 2013 while the student population has dropped and the number of district employees has increased….


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