York County school officials expressed frustration with a pending study to see if taxpayers would save money with a limited consolidation of the county's 15 school districts.
The York County House Republican delegation called for the study, which will aim to see if there are taxpayer benefits associated with merging the administrative functions of the county's public schools.
Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said investigating the cost benefits is one step the county can take toward relieving tax rates across the county.
"We can't just be stagnant about education," Saylor said.
But school officials say leaving their offices out of the loop doesn't allow for all parties to have a place in the dis´ cussion.
"I think it's a good discussion to have," said Michael Wagner, Central York school board president. "They need to include school districts in the discussion, though."
Joel Sears, a school board member at York Suburban School District, said the call for a study is a "do-nothing plan."
Sears said if the study doesn't find cost savings, the discussion will be over. But even if the study does reveal cost- saving measures, they would probably not be large enough to affect the county's aggregate budget, he added.
State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said the possible consolidation would not include any teachers, and the unions would stay in place. But Miller said the study could shed light on possibilities for cost savings the lawmakers have not thought about yet.
"Maybe we can learn something new," Miller said.
Miller said the administrative costs for a district account for between 4 and 6 percent of the school's budget, which Miller said is lower than in other areas. But Miller and the other representatives said the study could lead to savings.
Study details: The study will look at how the local tax base, state funding and property tax allocation would be affected if the school administrations were to consolidate. The study will also address how the districts would handle separate school debts.
The study will be conducted by the state's Independent Fiscal Office, created in 2010 to provide the public and Pennsylvania General Assembly with impartial analysis of financial matters.
The study has a deadline of Dec. 15, 2014. IFO Director Matthew Knittel said he expects the study to be completed before that date, according to a letter to the representatives.
Dallastown Superintendent Ron Myer said he has served in a consolidated county district in the past, and said there are pros and cons to both systems. Myer said he will wait to see the scope of the study before determining its benefit.
Sears said taxpayers will mostly likely have to balance their taxes with other rates in the county if consolidation would happen. Sears said the disparity in millage rates in York would cause an unfair tax hike in many districts.
But Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover, said many constituents in his district believe the study is merited.
"They feel it's about time," Grove said.
Grove said the public wants to see efficiency in government, and he said providing data about the efficiency of the school districts will give the public a more informed idea about possible savings.
The York County schools include about 62,000 students. If the county were to consolidate its districts, it would be the second-largest school district in the state, following Philadelphia's district of 102,000 students.
Grove is inviting public feedback through a survey on his website, www.repgrove.com. Nikelle Snader can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.