Vote ‘Yes’ on today’s budget

There have been some concerns raised about a letter to the editor published on Saturday from Dan Engel arguing there were many inaccuracies in his letter and it should have not been allowed to run. There have been nearly as many positive responses to the letter; and it is an opinion.

First and foremost, while we still do not agree with a 14.6 percent tax levy increase, The Leader-Herald is in support of the budget being approved. The board members have worked to trim the budget down as much as possible and we feel it needs to pass so the district does not have to go to a contingency budget.

And while Mr. Engel’s emotions blur some of the facts, he is not totally inaccurate.

An editor’s note should have clarified library employees are not district employees as stated by Mr. Engel. But the fact is the library’s budget is included on the tax bill as a separate line item. If a taxpayer does not pay that portion of their school tax bill, they will be considered in arrears. Therefore, the library is on the school tax bill, which affects more taxpayers, but it is removed from the city’s tax rolls. The move was approved by voters.

As mentioned in previous editorials and in Letters to the Editor, many of the budget woes the present board is facing were caused by ill-advised decisions and oversight by previous boards; but there is still a problem with not enough foresight and oversight for the present Capital Project that has cost taxpayers.

Almost every school district in the Tri-county area have Capital Projects going on and none of them are facing what the Johnstown school district is now dealing with.

Taxpayers are having to carrying the burden of getting the district out of the financial hole they find themselves in and not everyone in the school district has the “extra” money to pay more taxes.

The median income in Fulton County, according to DataUSA, is $48,033 with the poverty rate at 16 percent.

The official national poverty rate in 2017 was 12.3 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

These cumulative tax increases are going to hurt a lot of homeowners in the district who are on fixed incomes and in order to pay the increases in their tax bills, however “minor,” as some call it, something else has to be given up.

Mr. Engel is against the raise in his tax bill because he says he has seen the mismanagement over the years and he wants someone held accountable and it not become his burden.

He is entitled to feel that way, but he cannot allow the facts to be blurred.

For that, we apologize.

But the current board and the current students should not be punished for previous board’s mistakes.

As for the audits he called for, the district is audited on a regular basis — twice a year — one by an outside resource.

From an audit on the district’s 2015-16 budget, the actual revenue was less than its budgeted revenue by $202,211 and the district received $328,469 less in New York state aid than budgeted, which accounted for the deficit that year. State aid is always an iffy thing and that is not the board’s fault.

The audit said that because of the prior year’s revenue, and after consideration of the district’s financial condition, officials made the decision to create and fund several new reserves and increase existing reserves in an attempt to stabilize taxes in future years which should have had the district in a position to “maintain appropriate reserve levels in order to stabilize future budgets.”

The audit said that in spite of the revenue deficit that year, with restriction of purchasing and “careful scrutiny of expenses,” the district was able to maintain a tax levy increase in the subsequent year within the legislative limit, while maintaining appropriate programs for students and, actually increasing educational opportunities for students.

But, the stabilization in taxes has not happened yet and it has been two years since that particular audit.

The district has not been able to maintain its budget without a significant tax increase because, as many have expressed, it is still not doing enough to curve expenses — ie: extra heating costs for an open gymnasium during winter for one.

And if you are interested in salaries, go to https://www.seethroughny.net/payrolls.

While this budget is emotional for many, especially those with children in the schools, just as many have called and emailed expressing that they still feel not enough is being done to keep the tax levy affordable.

Even so, at this point, we agree the budget, as presented for today’s vote, should be passed. Vote ‘Yes.’

But, with that said, officials should start now and take a closer look on what the district is spending so taxpayers are not the ones carrying the burden of past mistakes.

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