On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, New York residents will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment, Proposal Number One, that addresses disparities in how small city school districts like the Greater Johnstown School District are able to take on debt compared to other districts across the state.
Currently, New York’s 57 small city school districts are limited by the state constitution to a 5 percent debt limit. The rest of New York’s more than 600 school districts are allowed a 10 percent limit.
Coupled with a debt limit half the size of their counterparts, small city districts also cannot apply a Building Aid offset against their debt limit. That means for capital projects, small city school districts have far less borrowing power than their suburban and rural counterparts, despite having the same approval process from voters.
This restriction limits how small city school districts are able to maintain and improve their facilities. Often, projects must be broken up into a sequential series of smaller projects over a number of years in order to stay under the 5% debt limit cap. This is inefficient and can lead to more costly projects.
The 5% debt limit was created in the middle of the last century and predates school budget votes and tax levy limits.
Taxes will not be affected by Proposal Number One. The vote is required by law, and simply provides the opportunity to correct an outdated restriction and ensure that small city schools are treated in the same manner as all other school districts.
Because GJSD is a small city school, the proposed constitutional amendment directly affects our district and school community.
We encourage our community members to research this topic further so you feel informed at the polling booth on November 7. We also would like for you to be familiar with the wording of the proposal that will appear on the ballot on November 7:
Proposal Number One states:
“The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?”