2020-21 proposed budget Q&A

What is Johnstown’s proposed school district budget and tax levy for 2020-21?

Johnstown’s 2020-21 budget is a needs-based spending plan that keeps the district on course toward educational excellence and fiscal sustainability. The proposed $38,975,289 budget calls for a 2.9% spending increase over this year’s operating budget, while the projected tax levy would increase by 5%. The increase is above the district’s calculated tax levy “cap”, so a supermajority of voters (60%) is required for budget approval.

The budget prioritizes development of the whole child through academics, athletics, activities and the arts with a moderate increase in spending in the program component. Capital and administrative spending is decreasing to partially offset the additional expenditures in the program component.

View the proposed budget document.

How much will taxes increase?

The proposed budget provides for growth and addresses student needs for about two-thirds less of an increase than had originally been anticipated. Under an approved budget with a 5% tax levy increase, the average taxpayer with a home assessed at $100,000 could expect to see their tax bill increase by approximately$80.65 per year, or about $1.55 per week. The amount of an individual’s tax bill will vary based on the location of his or her home. Estimates are based on current assessments and equalization rates, and may change when actual tax rates are set in August.

What program priorities are supported in this budget?

Teaching resources are being redeployed to provide additional academic intervention services and information literacy instruction. Athletics and extracurricular activities are restored to 2018-19 levels. Art and music are maintained at the elementary schools and the junior-senior high school. A social worker, whose services can be subsidized by aid, is being added to support the increasing social-emotional needs of our students.

What has the district done to move toward fiscal sustainability?

The proposed 2020-21 GJSD budget continues to address the critical areas needed to allow the district’s financial status to be in good standing.The district has closed one elementary school and repurposed the junior high building to reduce costs while still providing a full array of programs for students. Sixteen positions have been eliminated as a result of the building closures and declines in student enrollment. Changes in insurance carriers for active employees and retirees have resulted in further savings.

What if the budget is not approved by voters?

If the proposed spending plan does not pass on July 28, the district would move to a contingent budget. Under the property tax cap law, a school district that adopts a contingent budget cannot increase its tax levy, and an additional $890,000 would have to be cut from the budget. District officials have indicated additional reductions would directly affect student programs and services as well as intended purchases, such as a plow purchase the district has put off for the past few years.

What are the increases in programming costs in this budget?

In addition to regular increases in costs of programming and services, resources are being shifted to address areas of critical need. This includes support for struggling learners, promoting equity for all students.

Why do taxes keep going up if services are being cut?

Reductions have been made in the last three years to address declining student enrollment. However, prices continue to go up, just like in a home budget, so more revenue is needed to operate the district as costs rise.

If the proposed budget is approved, how will it affect my taxes?

A 5% increase will cost about $80.65 per year for a house valued at $100,000. That’s $1.55 per week – about the price of a large coffee at McDonalds.

Last year the district said the tax levy increase was going to be 14%, but then it ended up at 5%. What changed?

The District made further reductions to staff, made changes to health insurance, closed Glebe and repurposed Knox to reduce expenses.

In addition, there were some cost savings as a result of the shutdown this past spring – those savings are being passed on to the taxpayers in the form of a lower tax levy increase.

Where did the rest of the fundraising money go if we didn’t have spring sports?

The fund-raised money is with the Purple and Gold Sports Booster Club – that group specifically supports athletics, so the funds are in place to support athletics in the upcoming year(s).

Why did the district purchase new buses when the others are fine? Couldn’t that money be used to fund programs in the district?

The buses being replaced were seven years old with over 100,000 miles. The necessary repairs would have cost us about the same as new buses. It is important to maintain a bus fleet in good condition to safely transport our students. The reserve money being used to purchase the buses is identified for that specific purpose. The funds could not be used to pay for other types of expenses.

Would the proposed budget have passed in June if the absentee ballots could have been counted that were deemed invalid due to lack of signature or for another reason?

The procedure for processing absentee ballots prevents the District from reviewing the ballots that are deemed to be invalid. It is not possible to quantify the effect that those ballots would have had on the results of the vote.

Does the district have a long-range plan to get it back on track?

Yes. District administration, working with an experienced financial advisor and the BOE audit committee, have developed a long-range plan to restore the district to fiscal stability.

The District has also engaged in long-range capital planning. A building condition survey is currently being done to prioritize maintenance and repairs. The survey will enable the district to plan ahead for repairs needed to maintain safe and adequate facilities to support the District’s programs.

If the state cuts funding in a look-back period, does Johnstown have a plan? Other area districts have already made cuts in anticipation of this.

In reviewing and managing our savings accounts this spring, we did so with the potential aid cuts in mind so that the District is in a better position to cover costs if the aid is reduced.

If I vote no on the proposed budget, will the district have to keep Knox open as a Junior High School?

The BOE has already voted to repurpose Knox and the change has already been approved by the state Education Department. That decision is separate from the budget vote.

What happens if enrollment numbers go up and we need more space? Would Knox be converted back to a Junior High School?

The district will still own the building, so that does provide some flexibility for the future.