The state, over the past several years, has made it a mission to force school districts to live within their means.
Act 1 of 2006 placed annual tax caps on districts, and the Legislature recently limited the number of exceptions they can claim to go over the limits.
That's good news for property owners after years of skyrocketing taxes.
But on the downside, state funding cuts in recent years have caused districts to cut teaching positions and programs. If the state goes too far, our children's education could be affected.
A balance needs to be struck.
Still, it's hard to take issue with another, upcoming round of forced belt-tightening.
On Oct. 1, the state will place a moratorium on a program that reimburses school districts 30 percent to 40 percent of the costs of approved building and renovation projects.
The Department of Education sets aside about $300 million a year for Planning and Construction Workbook, often called PlanCon. To be considered for reimbursements, districts have to submit multiple plans and reports about their projects to justify the need.
But after Sept. 30, that money will be off-limits at least until June 30 as a department committee investigates whether to continue PlanCon in some form or at all.
Only projects submitted before then will be considered for the remaining pot of money.
For residents who have seen their tax dollars used by districts to build "Taj Mahal" schools or for other extravagances in the past, that's not such a bad thing.
The moratorium will force school boards to consider their needs and only their needs. Does the district require a new building or would a renovation satisfy? If a new building is in order, does it have to be that particular design?
Of course, the projects eligible for reimbursement don't have to be large renovations or new construction. They can be something as simple as installing a new heating, ventilation and cooling system.
Taxpayers are usually more forgiving of those types of projects. As homeowners, they know if they need a new roof or HVAC system there's not much to be done other than bite the bullet.
Hopefully, that's what school districts will be doing in the next several weeks -- looking for work that absolutely has to be done in the near future.
What won't sit well is if school districts empty their wish lists into designs submitted just before the moratorium takes effect -- things they don't really need, but would really like to have and would only be possible if the state covered a large part of the bill.
We hope the committee investigating PlanCon doesn't do away with the program altogether. Certainly, some changes need to be made regarding what qualifies for reimbursement -- and, after all, the Department of Education did sign off on all of those palace school buildings.
Money should be available to help districts with emergency repairs and, perhaps, with new school construction in some cases -- if the plans are modest and realistic.