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W. Chester, PA: "Growth in special education"; greater costs for districts

Jan 22, 2018, Philly.com: As budget season nears, school districts face formidable foe: Fixed costs http://www.philly.com/philly/education/in-budget-season-school-districts-face-formidable-foe-fixed-costs-20180122.html The West Chester Area and Upper Darby School Districts operate in separate economic realities: West Chester is among the wealthier districts in the region, while Upper Darby is one of the poorer. Yet as the school budgeting season gets underway in the coming weeks, they do share one thing in common: Most of the 2018-19 budget already is spoken for. After fixed costs such as already-negotiated increases in benefits, state-required pension payments, and special-education placements, Pennsylvania school officials say there’s little wiggle room. An Inquirer and Daily News analysis based on data from the state and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials found that on average, about 85 percent of all costs for the state’s 500 school districts are set before budget hearings even begin. … Special-education costs also are growing in many Pennsylvania districts, along with charter-school payments in some, … But the added money is a fraction of the $12 million spending increase Scully forecasts in the $243 million budget, driven by costs including a new teachers’ contract, larger pension contributions, and growth in special education. Even if taxes increase — the board has received exceptions to raise taxes above the state index, to 4.5 percent, largely because of special-education costs — Scully projects a deficit.