CARBONDALE -- The superintendent of Carbondale Area Schools says he is between a rock and a hard place. The state budget is now three months overdue and without funding, the district is struggling. Already district officials have borrowed nearly $1 million.
Thursday night, Carbondale school officials met in an executive session, closed to the public and talked about bills: who to pay and how to pay them with very little money. They also decided to hold a public meeting on October 12 to get opinions about what to do.
"Where do the taxpayers, where do the parents, where do the kids want to go? I'm sure nobody is going to want to close because none of us want to close either, but going forward, we have to check with the banks--if the bank's going to give us money. Maybe the banks won't give us money,” said board president Gary Smedley.
"It's becoming more dire daily. Basically, we're reduced to payroll, Blue Cross, some key utility bills, and that's it,” said David Cerra, the district business manager.
School leaders say they don't want to have to close the schools; they don't think it will save much money. But if they do have to make that decision, they say the public will have input and plenty of notice.
“A lot of kids in my seventh period music class today were like asking me what's going on about it and I have to talk to them about it as much as I can anyway. Just to kind of comfort them and tell them, 'Yeah, you have a school and it's not going anywhere. If they have to close the doors due to money, they have to close the doors,'” said school band director Theron Roberts.
Carbondale Area leaders say they're also going to send a message to lawmakers to pass a budget soon that makes education a priority. They may send cards home to parents and then mail them to Harrisburg and they're considering a rally, too.
"What politician in his right mind would want to say no to a child's education? Really there is no one who would stand up. It's time to move past politics and put education in a position where it's discussed openly and honestly and it's fully funded,” said school superintendent Joseph Gorham.
Carbondale Area officials say they have enough money right now for two more payrolls.