GJSD holds budget hearing

JOHNSTOWN — Members of the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education answered questions relating to the proposed $39 million budget for the 2020-21 school year.

BOE members answered questions that were sent in prior to the budget hearing on Tuesday during their virtual public hearing.

The spending plan includes a 5 percent tax levy increase, and the district plans to use $3 million from the fund balance.

Making up the revenue is 26 percent of property tax, 8 percent from the fund balance, 4 percent from other revenue and 62 percent from state aid.

Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan said the proposed budget focuses on rebuilding sports and extracurricular activities for students, keeping tax increases reasonable, maintain reserves and strive to minimize future budget swings.

Geelan said being added to the proposed budget are having AIS being taught by teachers; adding a certified library media specialist in each school; adding an assistant principal at Johnstown High School to coincide with bringing grades 7-8 to the high school building and repurposing Knox Jr. High School; a part-time teacher on special assignment at Warren St., for supervision; athletics; extracurricular activities; field trips and a social worker.

Cuts being made from the budget include two principals; 1 nurse; 1 clerical position; 1 custodial worker; five teachers; and six teacher assistants.

Last year the district was looking at a three-year approach that included a tax levy increase of 14.6 percent for 2019-20, a 14 percent increase for 2020-21 and another 14 percent increase for 2021-22. However, this year they are looking at a revised three-year approach with a 5 percent tax levy increase, and next year the district expects there to be a 9-14 percent tax levy increase depending on the state aid levels.

“The district had an actual spending gap, so we were actually spending more than we were taking in and that gap was winding over time,” said Ruthie Cook, assistant superintendent. “The increases that we’ve been able to make in the tax levy so far and more importantly the reductions, or the cuts we’ve been able to make we in the past two years have been able to reduce that spending gap.”

Cook gave a summary of the fund balance in which the district currently has approximately $6.5 million in the fund balance, they plan to use $3 million. That would bring the fund balance down to $2.4 million making the adjusted unrestricted fund balance as 6.3 percent of the total budget. Cook said the state allows 4 percent.

“We consider that there may be unforeseen emergencies or unexpected expenses and we appropriate the fund balance for those purposes,” Cook said. “Should there be an emergency or unexpected expense we don’t want to be in a position where we have to borrow money.”

Included on this year’s ballot are the three open seats on the board in which there are only two candidates for those three open seats so one will be a write-in; the purchase of two 66 passenger buses will be purchased using capital reserves; and the creation of a capital reserve to authorize the board of education to fund it up to half a million dollars in which that reserve can only be used for the purpose of capital projects and construction.

If the proposed budget does not pass the district will have to go to a contingency budget which would mean they would have to eliminate approximately $890,000 from the budget and several more items would have to be cut including the assistant principal, five or more teachers, one nurse; five or more teaching assistants; instructional leaders, some to all athletics, some to all extracurricular activities; field trips; equipment and the New York State Boards Association membership.

Voting on the proposed budget will take place on June 9 and will be done by absentee ballot. All qualified voters will receive an absentee ballot with a postage paid return envelope. Those absentee ballots must be returned by 5 p.m. on June 9.


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