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Board adopts $38.7 million budget proposal for 2019-20

On Tuesday, May 21, residents of the Greater Johnstown School District will vote on a proposed $38,695,480 budget for the 2019-20 school year. The Johnstown Board of Education adopted the budget proposal during its regular meeting on Wednesday, April 17.

The proposed budget represents an 8.5% spending increase and a tax levy increase of 35%, which is above the district’s calculated tax levy “cap.” A supermajority of voters (60%) is required for budget approval. Most of the proposed spending increase (6.9%) is for capital project expenditures, much of which will be reimbursed by the state. The proposed budget also reflects $500,000 in spending reductions.

Two-year plan would put GJSD back on solid financial footing

The proposed budget is part of a two-year plan the board has outlined that is designed to end Johnstown’s reliance on its reserves (savings) to fund core programs. During a series of forums held in March, members of the community indicated support for a tax levy increase to preserve programs.

“Our board members recognize the need for a 50% tax levy increase to make the district financially stable again,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Kilburn. “But they also recognize that achieving such a significant tax levy increase in one year would present a financial hardship for some of our residents. By spreading out the increase over two years, we can avoid cuts to key non-mandated programs, such as athletics, while easing the transition to a more sustainable tax levy.”

Kilburn said that if residents approve the 2019-20 budget proposal on May 21, board members plan to develop a 2020-21 budget that calls for a 15% tax levy increase, thus achieving the 50% tax levy increase over two years. Starting with the 2021-22 budget, the district would look to propose budgets with tax levy increases that stay within the district’s tax levy “cap.”

The district will host a budget forum at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24 at St. John’s Episcopal Church on North Market Street. Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook will lead a line-by-line review of the proposed budget at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, in the JHS library.

Qualified residents of the Greater Johnstown School District will vote on the proposed budget Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Polls will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. Additional information about voting is available on the district website, Residents are invited to learn more and ask questions about the budget proposal at a public budget hearing starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 in the lecture hall at Johnstown High School. Detailed information about the budget proposal and other ballot propositions will be posted on the district website in the coming weeks. An informational brochure will be mailed to all households in early May.

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District Exploring Capital Project Improvements

Board members and administrators met recently with representatives from the architectural and engineering firm CSArch to discuss a potential capital project in the Johnstown School District.

While the district’s buildings are structurally sound and have been well cared for, each building needs routine maintenance, similar to the maintenance that residents’ homes would regularly require. When these repairs are included as part of a capital project, they are eligible for state aid and any remaining local costs are spread over 15 to 20 years. Without a capital project, repairs may still need to be made, but would have to be funded out of the budget, with no state aid for the work.

Many of the items currently under consideration for improvement are related to health and safety, including building and classroom door security, roof replacement, electrical upgrades, bathrooms/fixtures, drop-off and pick-up configurations at buildings, HVAC and lighting. Additional areas under review include the JHS pool, JHS gymnasium, cafeteria/gym spaces, the track, and education spaces including music suites and art rooms.

Some concern has been expressed about the state of the JHS pool, where operating systems such as the air handler and pump/filter have been subjected to nearly forty years of chemical exposure. Over this extended period of time, the corrosive nature of chlorine has taken a toll on the expected life of not only the pool equipment, but also the locker room areas. An idea to repurpose the pool area as a new gymnasium has come up in discussion, but no decision has been made on how to proceed. Whether the district ultimately moves to upgrade/rehab the pool, or close it and repurpose the space, will depend in part on cost estimates.

While there is a goal for a November 2014 referendum, Johnstown’s capital project process is currently still in preliminary stages. The board and administration will be taking careful consideration of many possibilities over the next several months, and frequent updates will be provided.

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