Cheers and Jeers

JEERS – To the Greater Johnstown School District School Board for its shameless act to try and influence voters during the vote on Tuesday for the $38.7 million budget that would have raised the tax levy by 35 percent.

Instead of being able to directly enter the gymnasium at the initial doorway as in the past, in order to vote on Tuesday, voters, even those with walkers and with canes, had to navigate through the hallways of the school, past students’ artwork, displays of students’ accomplishments and projects, as well as a large screen TV with a video touting the accomplishments of various extracurriculum activities that could possibly be cut if the budget was not approved.

Once in the gymnasium, voters were again subjected to a large-screen television blaring the same video on how well some athletic teams had done, the accomplishments of the Winterguard, and so on.

In addition, certain board members made appearances at some youth events, such as opening day of Little League to stump for the $38.7 million budget.

The entire theme being touted was the children will suffer if you do not vote yes to a higher tax levy.

Yes, some families can afford to pay a few hundred bucks a year to help the district out this financial mess, but others are not so fortunate. What about the fairly large portion of senior citizens and disabled in our area who are on fixed incomes? Where do they come up with that extra money so the children won’t “lose” any of the extracurriculum activities and teachers’ jobs don’t have to be cut. Give up a meal or two? Maybe have to wear three sweaters in the winter inside because they can’t afford to heat their homes comfortably?

While many of the problems faced by today’s board were started by previous administrations, they still are not being adequately addressed without trying to put the burden on the taxpayers to “fix” the problem.

One of the major issues with the money shortage for the school district’s budget goes back to the Capital Project that saw too many bells and whistles and not enough oversight or foresight — think extra heating costs with uninstalled windows that left the gymnasium open in the winter and a $400,000 concession stand that wasn’t necessary– and despite dropping enrollment numbers and a reserve fund balance that was steadily being dipped into without a plan to keep it at a steady rate, the district is now in a pickle.

No one wants students to lose out or go without, but the buck has to stop somewhere and it can’t be on the backs of taxpayers, especially the ones who cannot continue to fund mistakes of the past.

Using guilt tactics to try and sway voters wasn’t right.

There has to be ways to trim the budget without eliminating kindergarten and robbing the students of a great high school experience.

In addition, the school budget vote should be treated like primaries and general elections. It should be held at a location that is not associated with the school, so tactics such as those used Tuesday can’t be done to try and sway votes.