Aument bill alarms EASD administration

By on February 25, 2015

A bill introduced by Sen. Ryan Aument to amend the state constitution is attracting attention, however not the kind of attention the freshman senator may have wanted.
Earlier this month, members of Ephrata Borough Council raised concerns about the impact such an amendment might have on borough finances. On Monday night, Ephrata Area School District officials raised similar concerns.
Senate Bill 4 seeks to amend the state Constitution to give the legislature the authority to determine the qualifications of institutions of “purely public charities” for tax-exempt purposes. Additionally, it would provide that only the Legislature has the right to determine the qualifications of institutions of “purely public charities.”
The bill came about as a legislative response to the Mesivtah decision in 2012, where the PA Supreme Court retained the right to interpret the constitutional minimum requirements of tax exemption. Senate Bill 4 passed both the House and the Senate in 2013. However, the state Constitution requires that constitutional amendments be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions. If the bill passes again in 2015-16, it must then go to Pennsylvania voters for approval as an amendment to the state Constitution.
Assistant Superintendent Richard Hornberger characterized the potential impact as “dangerous.”
“The passing of Senate Bill 4 would have a significant impact on the Ephrata Area School District,” said Hornberger. “Approximately $200,000 of tax revenue to the district could be eliminated with new organizations eligible for tax exemption. This would create significant challenges for the school district to compensate for that type of revenue loss.”
This is particularly alarming to school districts reeling from the recent ramp up in PSER burden being shouldered at the local level in addition to a number of other unfunded mandates passed down by both the state and local government over the past number of years.
In a letter from Aument to Ephrata Borough Council, he states SB 4 does not limit the municipalities ability to challenge a tax exempt status or negotiate a PILOT (or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes). However, this would have little to no effect on the school district’s ability to collect much needed property taxes. In addition, non-profits are often less likely to voluntarily offer PILOTS to the school district since they do not directly benefit from any government services as they do with the borough.
In other district news, Hornberger made an announcement about the district’s Project Lead the Way efforts.
“I’m proud to announce that we received word last week that Ephrata High School is now a certified Project Lead the Way school,” said Hornberger. “A Project Lead the Way visitation team visited the high school in mid-February to interview students and spent a short time deliberating before awarding the certification.”
The district adopted Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and began offering PLTW STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses at Ephrata High School in the 2012-13 school year. PLTW is a not-for-profit organization and the nation’s leading provider of middle and high school STEM education programs. The start-up costs for the launch of PLTW at Ephrata High School were supported by a $35,000 grant from Cargill.
Among those Hornberger acknowledged for their efforts in guiding this program through to reality were Candy Blessing, Rod Myers and high school principal Scott Galen among other administrators and staff.
In a statement, Myers commented on the effort.
“I believe our program came across pretty well to our visitors since they didn’t need to deliberate very long at the end of the interviews before delivering their verdict,” said Myers.
Because of the program, EHS currently offers five full-year courses: Introduction to engineering design, principles of engineering, aerospace engineering, civil engineering and architecture, and computer science and software engineering. Next year, a semester-long introduction to computer science course will be added.
The national certification program distinguishes schools for successfully demonstrating a commitment to PLTW national standards. Certification as a PLTW school provides students with the opportunity to apply for college credit or receive college-level recognition at more than 50 PLTW affiliated universities and research partners, including Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Perdue University, and Duke University.
The Ephrata High School team sought certification via a comprehensive self-assessment and site visit by PLTW representatives. The representatives met with Ephrata High School teachers, school administrators, counselors, students, and members of the school PLTW Partnership Team. A PLTW Partnership Team is comprised of teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, business and industry professionals, and other community members who actively support the PLTW program and dedicate 12 weeks of their personal time to attend PLTW professional development training programs. PLTW, a nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading provider of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education programs, offers a rigorous world-class curriculum that allows students to apply what they are learning in math and science classes to real-life activities, projects, and problems. PLTW also prides itself on high-quality professional development of its teachers and an engaged network of business, community, and university partners to give students the fullest experience.
For additional information on Ephrata Area School District, visit their website at: Gary P. Klinger welcomes your feedback and questions via email at

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