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GJSD eyes 50% tax levy proposal?

Guest editorial

By THOMAS W. SUYDAM

I pay my school taxes like everyone else and trust that “adults” are spending the money wisely in our behalf to educate our children, our next generation of adults.

Revenues: “Revenues aren’t keeping pace…” Without specificity, I’m left to assume that various segments of State Aid are in doubt for 2019-20, since real estate (property) taxes are the only significant source of revenues other than State Aid.

Chief School Administrator: Superintendent Kilburn’s compensation appears under the Chief School Administrator line item, presumably at $143,000 based on her Agreement which is available online. That’s a $4,000 increase from the $139,000 included in the 2018-19 Proposed Budget. Other associated salaries, fringes and expenses will increase the Superintendent’s costs to over $200,000. By contrast, $200,000 currently funds the cost of our Johnstown mayor, the 5-person common council and city treasurer with room to spare! I can see results generated by my city’s managers, but where do I look to find favorable results associated with GJSD matters fiscal and otherwise? The best overall rating I can find for the district is C-. Who knew? Don’t the kids perform better than that on the athletic field? Why don’t they achieve better results in the classroom?

Declining head count: The number of students enrolled in Johnstown schools has declined by 323 students since the Jansen Avenue School was closed in 2010. It’s no surprise that the populations of both cities have been declining steadily since 1950! Where are the area’s jobs to turn the decline around? With our runaway taxes and failure of purpose and effort to control them, is it any surprise that our residents are fleeing for better opportunities elsewhere, lower taxes and lower energy bills?

Fulton-Montgomery Community College: We owe a debt of gratitude to FMCC for providing affordable community college educations that keep many young families in the area. We must do what we can to ensure that the bright spot of FMCC doesn’t become tarnished by neglect.

The GJSD Library funding: The City of Johnstown recently offloaded its financial obligation to continue subsidizing the library to the GJSD, yet Johnstown’s city tax increases continue unabated. I’m guessing that the 2019-20 GJSD library tax accounts for a portion of the district’s financial crunch this year.

50% school tax increase: Apparently, the GJSD plans on April 17th to approve a $38.5 million 2019-20 district budget that will increase the school tax levy $4 million to $8.6 million. This is a confiscatory proposal for many living on fixed incomes. Where’s the demonstration of good faith to cut payroll and fringes and eliminate or consolidate services so we can live within our means?

Who am I to criticize the school budget? When I was a much younger man, I taught accounting, finance and investments at the college level: Bryant & Stratton Jr. College (Boston) and Nichols College (Dudley, MA). In my youthful ignorance, I grew up in Gloversville and graduated from GHS feeling that I received a sound education and serviceable decisions from my teachers and administrators.

How should we plan for the long-term? We should close and/or combine school facilities wherever possible. Improve the quality of education received by our students, so that the GJSD “report card” becomes a draw to bring young families to the area to educate their children. Apparently, this is easier said than done. I find it offensive that the school board would even submit a proposal with a 50% tax increase for our consideration.

Thomas W. Suydam lives in Johnstown.

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