Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How did the district get into its current budget situation?
A: In the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, the Johnstown Board of Education adopted school budget proposals that called for little or no tax levy increases, choosing instead to use the district’s savings — fund balance and reserves — to make up for any budget shortfalls. Only recently did the district begin working with independent financial advisers to create long-term budget projections that showed how quickly that practice is depleting Johnstown’s savings. The current Board of Education and administration continue to work with the financial advisers to develop plans for long-term cost savings and increased revenue to end the district’s reliance on its savings and put it back on solid financial footing.
Q: What has the district done to reduce the budget and control costs?
A: Leaders of the Greater Johnstown School District have been working to address the district’s long-term budget gap for years. For example, when developing the 2018-19 budget, leaders cut more than $1.1 million, including:
- 13 positions, including teachers, clerical workers, building support staff and administrators
- Transportation for pre-K and field trips
- Purchases of non-essential equipment
- Extracurricular programs with low participation
- Sports programs with low participation
- Consolidated some sports teams (e.g., freshman with JV, modified B with modified A)
- Merged some sports teams with other districts
- Reduced supply budgets by 30 percent
- Limited overtime hours
In 2009, Johnstown closed Jansen Avenue Elementary School as a cost-saving measure. Since 2011, Johnstown has made reductions in the areas of French, health, family and consumer sciences, technology and general electives, including eliminating six teaching positions in 2016.
Q: If enrollment is declining, why do we need to increase the tax levy?
A: Johnstown’s total enrollment has decreased by about 300 students over the past 10 years, or an average of 23 students per grade level. As enrollment has declined the district has “right-sized” its staff to maintain average class sizes of 20-22 in elementary schools and 22-25 at Knox Junior High and Johnstown High School. This “right-sizing” has been achieved through layoffs as well as attrition (not hiring someone to fill a position that was vacated through retirement or resignation).
In spite of declining enrollment, Johnstown’s budget continues to increase because of unfunded state mandates and rising costs associated with educating students with special needs. The district’s past over-reliance on its savings to pay for core programs means that Johnstown’s tax levy has not kept pace with rising costs.
Q: How much would my tax bill increase if the tax levy increases 35 percent?
A: If 60 percent of voters approve a budget that calls for a 35 percent tax levy increase, the average taxpayer with a home assessed at $100,000 could expect to see their tax bill increase approximately:
- Johnstown (City)
- Basic STAR — $31 per month OR $1.01 per day
- Enhanced STAR — $15 per month OR $0.48 per day
- No STAR — $44 per month OR $1.44 per day
- Johnstown (Town)
- Basic STAR — $50 per month OR $1.63 per day
- Enhanced STAR — $34 per month OR $1.10 per day
- No STAR — $63 per month OR $2.06 per day
- Basic STAR — $48 per month OR $1.56 per day
- Enhanced STAR — $31 per month OR $1.01 per day
- No STAR — $61 per month OR $2.00 per day
- Basic STAR — $63 per month OR $2.08 per day
- Enhanced STAR — $47 per month OR $1.54 per day
- No STAR — $77 per month OR $2.52 per day
- Gloversville (City)
- Basic STAR — $30 per month OR $0.97 per day
- Enhanced STAR — $14 per month OR $0.46 per day
- No STAR — $42 per month OR $1.38 per day
Note, estimates are based on current assessments and equalization rates. Actual tax rates are set in August. Basic STAR exempts some of an owner-occupied home’s assessed value from school taxes. Enhanced STAR provides an increased benefit for the primary residences of senior citizens (age 65 and older) with qualifying incomes ($86,300 or less for the 2019-20 school year). Learn more at www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property.
Q: What would happen if the proposed budget is voted down?
If the budget does not gain the approval of 60 percent of voters on May 21, the Board of Education would have three options:
- Put the same budget before the voters a second time;
- Put a revised budget before the voters; or
- Adopt a contingent budget.
After a second defeat, the board has no choice but to adopt a contingent budget. Under the property tax cap law, a school district that adopts a contingent budget cannot increase its tax levy.
In any case, Johnstown would continue to use its reserves to prioritize the continuation of kindergarten and the core high school program. The district would have to make reductions to other non-mandated programs, such as athletics, extracurricular activities, and non-mandated elementary programs, including music, art and academic intervention services.
The following year, 2020-21, district leaders estimate a minimum 18 percent tax levy increase would be required to continue funding kindergarten and the core high school program. An additional tax levy increase would be required to reinstate other non-mandated programs.