District looks at annual budget

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education on Thursday night said it is working on final capital project figures while the district prepares for upcoming district budget discussions.

The board discussed the possibility of 2019-20 budget workshops for: Feb. 7, Feb. 12-13, March 7 and March 18.

Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook said the March 18 session at Johnstown High School may be the final session, as the district “arrives at some budget numbers.”

In the meantime, the district is trying to prepare for how its recent $39.6 million capital project will fit into the next school year’s budget.

The district improved on all of its buildings the last few years through various construction projects. General construction work done by contractors included $11.6 million worth of work from Bunkoff General Contractors Inc. of Latham for Johnstown High School. The $39.6 million capital plan was approved by district voters in December 2014.

“We’re starting to get closer to budget time,” Superintendent Patricia Kilburn told the board Thursday night at Knox Junior High School.

District officials cautioned that none of its figures are absolutely set, but Kilburn said that the district may only have to finance $37.3 million of the original $39.6 million for capital projects. Officials have said the state is reimbursing the district about 95 percent for the projects.

Offset by state aid, Kilburn said the district will be paying roughly $3.7 million annually toward the capital projects.

“We’re waiting for all of the numbers to kind of come out,” the superintendent said.

She said the interest rate for the district borrowing could end up being about 4.8 percent. She said the district could face an additional $300,000 per year expense.

District officials have said in recent months that the city school system is working hard to improve its budgetary situation over the last budget.

District voters last May 15 didn’t approve the original $35.8 million 2018-19 budget that needed 60 percent voter approval, coming up with only 51 percent. The district’s revamped $35.7 million budget — with a scaled down 3.7 percent tax levy increase — passed a second time June 19 by 70 percent. Although the district averted contingency, the district ended up making major cuts, as officials confronted a $3 million budget gap.

Kilburn said Thursday that eventually the district will have final costs related to capital figures and state aid.

Cook said the district in coming weeks is also hoping to have a tax cap calculated.

Kilburn told the board to look at the school budget as a “pie,” with various slices. She said the state will reimburse most of the slices, but the district will have to pay for a small portion of the pie and “the crust.”

She said the district will be taking a hard look at building aid, and its reserves. She said the district has about $2 million in reserves.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.