We have to stop meeting like this.
The York City school board held an emergency session Monday to re-open its budget, restoring some of the drastic cuts for 2012-13 and easing a staggering tax hike.
The move was made possible by an unexpected infusion of $5 million for the financially distressed district, money that was included in the state budget signed late Saturday night.
The district's new budget is hardly anything to cheer about, but it's definitely an improvement on the oppressive plan approved June 20.
The board revised a 17 percent tax increase to an 8.5 percent hike. So rather than adding $265 to the tax bill of $50,000 homeowner, the new plan tacks on $135.
Keep in mind, this is in addition to York City's 17 percent tax increase, so property owners probably aren't jumping for joy.
More importantly, perhaps, is the board was able to restore a full-day kindergarten program, which had been cut to half-day in the previous version.
Some music, gym and art teachers will be added at the K-8 level, and a yet-to-be determined number of teachers will be added throughout the district to cut down on class size.
More than 50 teachers were laid off in the earlier plan, and district officials were expecting class sizes up of to 50 students in the coming school year. Superintendent Deborah Wortham said adding teachers will allow for class sizes of around 30 students.
This is undoubtedly good news. Besides its financial crisis, the York City School District is struggling academically. The last thing these students need is to have the deck stacked against them even more, with less access to early learning and fewer opportunities for one-on-one instruction.
But the extra money doesn't solve the district's financial woes.
The school board regularly starts the budget process millions of dollars in the hole, and the number seems to get bigger every year. This year it was $19 million.
The district needs a long-term plan to reach financial stability. And that is not crossing fingers and hoping for last-minute funds from the state.
Emergency meetings are no way to budget.
A bill awaiting the governor's signature should help the district right its ship, although there are still questions about the details.
It would allow the state to declare York City and three other school districts financially distressed, leading to the appointment of a chief recovery officer. The recovery officer would be selected by the state to provide oversight and would work with York City to craft a financial recovery plan.
If the board rejects the recovery officer's plan, the two sides would have up to one year to develop a plan that works for everyone. If no agreement is reached, the state would petition the Court of Common Pleas to appoint a receiver, which would make all of the district's decisions except setting the tax rate.
State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat who represents York City, was the sole nay vote in York County's delegation.
He said he has questions about details, such as how the recovery officer would be selected and what that person's qualifications should be.
There's also a rather bizarre clause that would make it illegal for a school board member in a financially distressed school district to resign from the board once the plan is in effect.
DePasquale points out school board members serve on a volunteer basis, and there are legitimate reasons why they might be forced to resign, such as moving out of the district or health issues.
And besides, if a district is so financially distressed it needs a recovery officer, there are probably one or two board members who should resign.
There certainly are questions about the bill that need to be addressed, but overall it's a good plan.
It might be one of the only options the York City School District has left.