Johnstown school board eyes budget

JOHNSTOWN – Greater Johnstown School District officials began the 2013-14 budget process Thursday night, discussing a rough draft of a budget just less than $24.8 million, with a tax-levy increase of $146,893.

That increase would represent a 2 percent increase from the current school year, fitting under the state-imposed tax-levy cap.

The preliminary budget figures don’t include any program cuts, School Business Manager Alice Sise said. She said she doesn’t anticipate any serious cuts to education or sports.

Officials are looking at $555,000 to be spent on the replacement of four school buses that have leases ending in June.

Sise walked school board members through the preliminary budget Thursday and explained the school bus costs.

“We ran into a problem with our buses. We have four buses up [for replacement] in June,” she said. “Usually we bought buses, because it cost less to repair them. But we had to lease them, because we didn’t have a repair shop for the buses.”

The district now shares a repair facility with the Gloversville Enlarged School District, so it will be able to buy buses this year.

Sise explained the district would be reimbursed by the state for 90 percent of the $555,000 – $99,000 per year over five years – leaving taxpayers with the remaining $60,000.

Sise said getting rid of busing for pre-K students would save the district $60,000 per year.

School Board President Paul VanDenburgh said four new school buses would be a major expense, even though 90 percent of the cost would be “eatable.”

“We don’t want to be operating buses that aren’t safe, so we’ll have to take care of that,” Sise said.

The district anticipates a $116,000 loss in federal grant funding, but officials explained they haven’t heard the final aid numbers from state officials yet. Sise said the district didn’t hear from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office until Jan. 17 last year for the 2012-13 state aid.

“It’s quite preliminary right now,” VanDenburgh said. “We have to wait for the governor to come out with his numbers, then the state to come out with their numbers.”

School officials also discussed hiring a part-time art teacher for the elementary schools, as an art teacher will retire at the end of this year.

Sise said district officials appreciate district residents’ support.

“We have reasonable people in the district,” she said. “That’s made it easier – that they understand the plight and the hardships … I think the community is really understanding and appreciative of what we do.”

Sise told the board the district has about $550,000 in its Employees’ Retirement System reserve fund and $85,000 in capital reserve.

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