Johnstown finalizing budget

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education is aiming to restore programs including sports and extracurricular activities for students in the 2020-21 school budget.

During a virtual BOE meeting on Wednesday, in which the board focused on administrative, capital and program components of the budget.

Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan said in the administrative and capital portions have decreases — capital a 2.1 percent decrease and administrative a 6.4 percent decrease — and the program portion shows a 5.7 percent increase. The overall budget from last year shows a 2.9 percent increase in expenditures.

“We’re trying to rebuild our budget, and our programs and services,” Geelan said. “We’ve had an awful a lot of cuts in the past. We’re building things back into the budget, we’re restoring things to the 2018-2019 level.”

She said they are restoring athletics including the athletic director, materials and supplies, transportation, uniforms and the coachs’ salaries. They would also like to add extra curricular activities for students.

Those additions include at least two Academic Intervention Services teachers per school rather than teacher assistants; certified library media specialists in each school; assistant principal at Johnstown High School for grades seven and eight; one extra nurse; social work; and field trips added to the budget.

“We’re looking at all aspects of the child — looking at their social-emotional needs as well as their curricular and extracurricular needs in teaching the whole child,” Geelan said.

Budget reductions include two principals, one nurse, one clerical position, two cooks, five teachers and reduced health insurance costs by changing carriers.

“So, we have a good plan for future spending and saving to put money into our reserves, so we’re not always going back to the tax payer and asking for money,” Geelan said. “Instead this will help us out.”

As for revenue, she said they are looking for a tax levy increase of 9 percent. The board was originally looking for 14 percent, so that is a 5 percent savings.

Also on the revenue side, Geelan said the are using about $2.5 million from the fund balance. Last year they used about $2.6 million of the fund balance.

Making up 66 percent of the revenue is state aid, however, state aid may be adjusted, so board members have had to come up with a plan if that state aid gets cut.

Geelan said if that aid gets cut, the board will focus on priorities and what possible things in the budget can get cut.

Also to be included on the ballot when voters take to the polls, is the purchase of two 66-passenger buses costing $228,143 and the creation for a capital reserve.

The two 66 passenger buses will be purchased using capital reserves, so it does not affect the tax levy and so the school district is not financing it, so it does not cost the school extra.

The creation of a capital reserve to authorize the board of education to fund it up to half a million dollars.

“It doesn’t mean we’re putting in a half of a million dollars in it,’Geelan said. “It means that we’re establishing basically a savings account where when there are times that having extra money at the end of this school year, we can the fund balance into this reserve to be used for a capital project in the future. That will put us in a better financial standing for doing a series of smaller projects in the future.”

She said money that goes into it can only be used for the purpose of capital projects and construction.

A date to vote has not yet been determined due to COVID-19, but Geelan said if this budget fails, she does not think there will be time for a re-vote. There needs to be a 60 percent in favor of the budget for it to pass.

If the budget vote fails, they will most likely have go to a contingency budget which means they will have to eliminate $890,000 from the budget and more items would have to be cut including the assistant principal, five or more teachers, one nurse; five or more teaching assistants; instructional leaders, some to all athletics, some to all extracurricular activities; field trips; equipment and the New York State Boards Association membership.

Cutting those items could mean a loss of opportunities for students both academically and in personal skill development, Geelan said.

By Paul Wager

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