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22 Pa. Code § 349.14. Department hearings.

§ 349.14. Department hearings.

 (a)  Nature. A Department convened hearing shall be in the nature of a legislative hearing to receive public comment and shall not be considered an adjudication within the meaning of the Local Agency Law (53 P. S. § §  11301—11311).

 (b)  Purpose. The purpose of a Department convened Act 34 hearing shall be to gather information from a variety of local sources in order to promote thoroughness in the deliberations which precede a final decision concerning approval of a project. A statement of that purpose will be contained in each Department press release, and will introduce each hearing.

 (c)  Initiation. When a thorough investigation of project submissions or citizen complaints, or both, indicates that information submitted at a Department convened hearing could make a significant contribution to the quality of Department deliberations prior to project approval, such hearing will be convened. In no instance shall such hearing be convened prior to Department receipt of properly processed estimated project costs.

 (d)  Hearing notice. Approximately 20 days, but not less than 14 days prior to the date of a hearing, the Department will cause legal notification to be published in the appropriate legal journal and/or in at least one newspaper with general circulation in the school district, or in both. The legal notice shall contain:

   (1)  the date, time, and location of the hearing;

   (2)  the purpose;

   (3)  the agenda topics;

   (4)  the time and place of availability of brief Board position statements upon the agenda topics;

   (5)  the method by which a citizen may gain placement upon the agenda; and

   (6)  the conditions for submission of testimony without agenda placement.

 (e)  Agenda topics. Testimony shall be heard separately upon

   (1)  the need for the project;

   (2)  project costs;

   (3)  related program operation costs;

   (4)  cost projections; and

   (5)  more issues.

 (f)  Hearing officer. Each Department convened hearing shall be under the direction of and chaired by an impartial Hearing Officer.

 (g)  Report. Following review of all submitted testimony and review of any reports of investigations conducted by request to the Department, the Hearing Officer shall submit a full and complete report. The report shall include the recommendations or opinions of the Hearing Officer. A copy of the report shall be forwarded to the applicant school district. Copies shall be made available, for the cost of duplication, to other interested parties.

 (h)  Department review. Appropriate Department personnel will be assigned to review the testimony and the report of the Hearing Officer. Reactions will be submitted to the Office of the Director of the Bureau of Educational Administration and Management Support Services. If any noncompliance with laws and regulations is determined, project approval will be appropriately withheld, withdrawn, or denied.

 (i)  Supplemental report. The Office of the Director of the Bureau of Educational Administration and Management Support Services shall determine if any supplement to the report of the Hearing Officer should be forwarded by the Department to the applicant school district.

 (j)  Effect upon approval. Those aspects of the report, its recommendations, or its opinions which do not concern violation of laws or regulations, will not affect the approvability of the subject project.

 (k)  Board action. It shall be the responsibility of the board of the applicant district to study the Hearing Officer’s report and any supplement very closely in order to determine if reconsideration should be accorded the project or any part thereof, and, having concluded its study of the report, the board shall inform the Department in writing of its official actions concerning the report.

 (l)  Further project approvals. No further processing approvals will be granted by the Department until it has received the report of the official action by the board of the applicant district to the Hearing Officer’s Report and any Department supplement.

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