Greater Johnstown School District budget would see a 5% property tax hike

Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Patricia Kilburn speaks during a Board of Education public hearing on the district’s proposed 2018-19 budget Tuesday night at Johnstown High School. (The Leader-Herald/Michal Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education conducted a public hearing Tuesday night on the district’s proposed $35.8 million 2018-19 budget, which carries a 5 percent property tax levy hike and eliminates positions.

The public will vote on the budget from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Johnstown High School auditorium.

Tuesday night’s hearing was attended by about 15 members of the public at JHS.

District Superintendent Patricia Kilburn ran through key points of the spending plan, which has a proposed 4.9 percent increase to the district tax levy and exceeds the state-imposed tax levy cap b y a calculated negative 2.5 percent. The budget will require voter approval by a 60 percent supermajority. She said more tax increases may be required in future years, and information can be found on the district website.

“I would ask that people do not give up hope,” the superintendent said.

She said that if a revote is needed, it will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 19. That will result in a contingency budget requiring an additional $400,000 in reductions.

The proposed budget totals $35.75 million — a 5.46 percent increase from the 2017-18 adopted budget. For a home in the city with an assessed value of $100,000 the proposed tax levy would add $71.50 to the property owner’s tax bill.

Kilburn noted there are various factors that go into assembling a district budget. In addition to being cut by state revenues and having to use more fund balance the last few years, the district has tried to meet other costs.

“Then there are program increases,” the superintendent said.

The district’s projected tax levy would increase by $406,561.

Estimated projections for school tax rates are as follows: city of Johnstown, $15.32 per $1,000 of assessed value; town of Johnstown, $21.88 per $1,000; town of Ephratah, $20.70 per $1,000; town of Palatine, $26.41 per $1,000; and city of Gloversville, $15.32 per $1,000.

Costs increasing for the 2018-19 school year in Johnstown include reimbursable costs. Those are projected to increase by $828,744. These include expenses related to the $39.6 million ongoing capital building project, student transportation, shared services through HFM BOCES, and PTECH. A portion of these costs are reimbursed to our district each year.

Kilburn says the cost of operating the district and employing people is projected to increase by $1,021,368. The increase in health insurance costs alone are projected to be over $1 million. This increase is being partially offset by reductions in other areas.

Even those taxpayers are facing increases for next year, Kilburn said approximately $1 million in reductions and eliminations have been made that affect programs, staff and operational expenses. These reductions include: staffing reductions, including teachers, clerical workers, building support staff, business office staff, and administrators; consolidation of some sports teams within the district and mergers of some sports teams with other districts; and reductions in supply purchases and overtime hours. When the board approved its budget to send to the voters, it said 13 positions would be cut.

The district is eliminating transportation service for pre-K; elimination of non-essential equipment purchases; and elimination of sports programs with very low enrollment.

In addition to voting on the 2018-19 school budget, voters will also elect three district residents to serve on the school board. The only candidates running are incumbents Kathryn Zajicek, Ronald Beck and Susanne Fitzgerald.

By Kerry Minor

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