We need to support the GJSD Budget

Recently I expressed specific concerns regarding the GJSD’s proposed 2019-2020 budget and associated tax levy increase. Since that time, I met with Superintendent Patricia Kilburn and Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook to discuss my concerns. They addressed each of them.

First, a final report on the building closure will take five months, not because of a lack of urgency, but because of a state-mandated process that must be followed when any building closure is considered. Second, a committee comprised of district and Bargaining Unit members is working to study changes in health plan designs to lower the cost of health insurance. Unfortunately, this is a very time-consuming, complicated process because there are multiple bargaining units and any plan change(s) must be coordinated among the various units. Third, salary concessions have been made by the various bargaining groups.

The district and its partners are collaborating on solutions to the problem.

The 2018 data for neighboring school districts shows that tax levies in their respective communities supported, on average, 37 percent of the districts’ budgets while the GJSD tax levy supported 26 percent of its budget.

The other communities are investing in education at a higher level than Johnstown. That is not to say Johnstown taxpayers are unwilling to do so, rather, it is because fund balance was overused over a period of many years to reduce or eliminate tax increases. Had that not occurred, and taxes were raised accordingly, we would likely be at levels comparable to the other districts and not in this dire situation.

The GJSD is a very low-cost district — the GJSD website details the bargain we have enjoyed all these years. The taxes are artificially low and we now need to ante up for overuse of the fund balance.

I would encourage everyone to visit the district’s website and/or attend budget informational meetings to learn more.

The GJSD is headed in the right direction with regard to the above issues. Unfortunately, the solutions take time just as it took time to reach this crisis point. We need to support our community, our schools, and most importantly, our children. The district and its partners are working together. Now we, the taxpayers, need to do our part. I strongly encourage Johnstown taxpayers to vote in favor of the proposed school budget. Our children and our future depend on it.

JOHN SAGAN

Johnstown