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Officials: School Tax Impasse Could Shut Down Pittsburgh Schools By February

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Schools in Pittsburgh could shut down by mid-February.

That is the warning from the city's school board president on Thursday.

On Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Public Schools board approved a new budget but deadlocked on paying for it.

"That will mean schools will shut down. People would be out of jobs. No transportation for those other individuals at schools where we provide transportation," Pittsburgh school board president Sylvia Wilson told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

It's a dire warning from Wilson after the board deadlocked on a tax bill to raise property taxes.

Wilson says the failure to pass a tax bill means, effective Jan. 1, there are no school property taxes in the city.

So schools could close when reserves run out in mid-February.

"Our fund balance, if we had to use that to pay our bills, and to run our schools, it would last a month and a half. In a month and a half, we would be totally bankrupt."

On Wednesday night, the board voted 5 to 4 to approve a $665 million spending plan, a $15 million increase over the current year.

A property tax increase of an additional $23 on every $100,000 in assessed home value was recommended to pay for it.

But that revenue plan was rejected after a 4-4 vote. Member Kevin Carter abstained.

The four voting "no" questioned the additional spending and higher taxes.

"How can you ask for additional resources to be poured into a system with such colossal academic failure?" asked member Sala Udin.

Although Carter voted for the higher budget, he said, "I abstained on the tax increase because I made a commitment to my constituents that I wouldn't support a tax increase unless it was absolutely necessary."

Carter is the swing vote at the board's Dec. 27 meeting, says Wilson.

"I would hope that Kevin could understand that we have to take care of our schools and we have to have them open," said Wilson.

"And that he has to do the tough decision," she added.

KDKA's Jon Delano texted Carter on Thursday, and he hasn't said yet what he will do.

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