LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – If there ever was a night on which state Rep. Thomas Quigley chose to wear iron underpants, Tuesday (May 26, 2009) should have been it.

Quigley – elected to represent Limerick (PA) Township and Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove  schools as part of his Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ 146th District – patiently accepted what he knew in advance would be a blistering attack from the Pottsgrove School District Board of School Directors for the state Legislature’s overall handling of school funding issues.

The board held its second of two monthly meetings Tuesday in the district administration building on Kauffman Road.

Directors, frustrated by what they claimed was legislative mismanagement and electoral hide-saving, complained to Quigley about how they were forced to raise property taxes because Harrisburg politicians refused to take the heat of voter outrage themselves. Once it finished, the thoroughly vented board apologized and thanked the man for just showing up.

“Believe me, we appreciate your being here,” school director Robert Lindgren offered with a smile. “We know this has not necessarily been the most fun for you over a couple of hours.” “You’re welcome,” Quigley replied, and smiled back.

The board’s latest torment is a state legislative proposal that threatens to take millions of dollars in federal economic stimulus money, intended for delivery to school districts, and instead use it to plug an anticipated $3-billion gap in Pennsylvania’s budget. The potential result, if passed, is that districts like Pottsgrove would receive no increase in state subsidies over last year, even though operating costs have risen.

“At some point, it would be nice for you guys to tell us how you figure schools can cope,” observed board Treasurer Fred Remelius. “It’s reprehensible,” board member Keith McCarrick chipped in, “that the state government would even try to take this money from us.”

“I don’t see where you’re doing anything to help,” board President Michael Neiffer snarled. The stimulus cash, he said, “would finally give us an opportunity to do some things to enhance the district, and you go and pull the carpet out from under our feet.”

Quigley acknowledged the problem, but nonetheless said he would support so-called “flat funding” for schools if necessary. “There’s an unprecedented revenue shortfall” in Pennsylvania, he said. “We’re going to face even bigger deficits if the economy doesn’t turn around” and, Quigley added, “tough, hard choices have to be made. Our good times have ended. The money’s got to come from somewhere.”

Legislators would prefer, Quigley said candidly, to avoid raising taxes. The budget gap might be mitigated by pulling money from Pennsylvania’s $700 million “rainy day fund,” or by increasing either or both personal income and sales taxes, but that “wouldn’t be a popular choice,” Quigley admitted.

“So you guys are passing it on to us again,” Neiffer shot back. “Public education is the one that’s getting smacked the hardest.”

“You’re saying that no one on the state level has the stomach to raise taxes, but you’ve got no hesitation to pass that responsibility on to us,” board Secretary Philip Keogh noted.