GJSD proposing budget with 8% tax levy hike

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District is looking at an 8 percent tax levy increase as part of the district’s 2021-22 budget, but Superintendent William Crankshaw says figures are “very preliminary.”

The 8 percent figure was imparted during a budget workshop given at the Board of Education meeting Thursday night.

Crankshaw said proposed expenditures for the next school year budget would total $40,378,009. Broken down in three areas, they would be: Administrative – $3,202,748; program — $29,076,267; and capital — $8,098,994.

Expenditures would be up by about 3.6 percent, or $1.4 million.

Crankshaw said the proposed 8 percent tax levy hike would contribute to a total levy of $11,176,484.

The 2021-22 budget reflects $1,740,532 in increased salaries, salary benefits and health benefits.

“Those are just proposed numbers,” the superintendent stressed.

State aid is expected to increase by $549,435 or 2.3 percent.

Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook covered some of the district’s budget history the last few years. She said the district noticed by 2018 “there was a problem,” and made reductions in expenditures. But she said the finances finally got better before COVID-19 struck last year.

Crankshaw said that because state aid is basically remaining “frozen,” the district’s expenditures will likely continue to outpace revenues “well into 2025.”

“We continue to close that gap,” he said.

For 2021-22, he said the district has $1,020,589 in reserve for tax reduction; and $2,041,178 in reserve for debt.

“We need to apply those funds over the next few years,” Cook said.

She said doing that will help keep programs “alive” within the district.

Crankshaw said fund balance won’t be applied to the proposed budge “in a meaningful way” until May or June. The district had about $12.4 million in fund balance with the 2019-20 school year.

Cook reviewed various aid packages for 2021-22, noting expense-driven aid would decrease by $118,150 for a total of $8,006,249. Foundation aid would stay the same at about $15.9 million. Excess costs would be $640,000 for a 63 percent jump. Instructional resources would be down by 1.5 percent and total $148,567. Pandemic-related adjustments would be up by $71,103.

Regarding the appropriation of fund balance, Crankshaw stated: “My recommendation has always been to get to as close to a balanced budget as possible.”

Crankshaw said instructional spending would rise by $913,890 or 5.3 percent. Staffing-wise, he said the district has reduced staff by 25 percent since the 2017-18 school year. During that time, he said the Johnstown district’s student population decreased.

“The fiscal crisis is ongoing,” the superintendent said.

But Crankshaw said certain programs will need a boost in staff. He said the district may add two Academic Instruction Services teachers; one elementary visual arts teacher; and a certain special ed program.

He said the best information he has shows city of Johnstown residents’ tax rate would increase by $1.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. He said district residents will get a budget brochure, and more information will be forthcoming.

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