Johnstown considers adding teachers

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District may spend about $320,000 to hire four teachers for the next school year, according to a recent budget discussion.

Superintendent William Crankshaw gave an update of the district’s proposed 2021-22 budget to the Board of Education at the Knox Building.

In February, the district indicated it was considering an 8 percent tax levy increase as part of the district’s 2021-22 budget. That figure has remained in budget discussions.

Crankshaw said the proposed district budget at this time would be $40,664,452. It would be up $1,689,163. It represents a 4.3 percent hike in spending.

The 8 percent tax levy increase would help fuel a total levy of $11,176,484 for 2021-22.

Crankshaw indicated at the board’s March 18 business session that the district may hire four teachers he said are needed. They are two Academic Intervention Service teachers — $160,000; elementary visual arts teacher — $80,000; and a full-time secondary mathematics teacher — $80,000.

“The fiscal crisis is ongoing, but certain programs that serve the district’s students will need increased staffing if we are to address natural learning gaps as the result of COVID-19,” Crankshaw said.

Long-range, the superintendent said that after the 8 percent tax levy increase, projected annual levy increases may stay about 2 percent through 2026.

The district had about $12.4 million in fund balance with the 2019-20 school year. That figure may end up being $13.2 million for 2021, and $12.7 million for 2022, Crankshaw said.

The budget presentation often centered on figures for each calendar year. It was noted revenues might be $35.9 million for 2021, and $37.7 million for 2022. Expenses were put at $35 million for 2021 and $38.2 million for 2022.

Crankshaw said long-range projections for federal money filtering down to Johnstown is somewhat sketchy.

“We don’t have a handle on how that’s going to effect the budget right now,” he said.

The most recent figures show proposed state aid is expected to increase by $638,016 or 2.6 percent. State aid for 2021-22 would be $24,719,612.

“As a short-term strategy, we should be cautious,” Crankshaw said.

Board President Christopher Tallon expressed a concern the district’s fund balance will eventually dry up.

“That fund balance is going to run out at some point,” he said.

Crankshaw told the board that experts urge school districts to be careful spending fund balance. But he said the Johnstown district has “made progress” on fiscal stability the last 10 years.

He said projections show Johnstown’s fund balance may take a nosedive by 2026.

Board member David D’Amore asked what percentage of the budget should fund balance be, and Crankshaw answered roughly 4 percent.

Meanwhile, the Johnstown school district’s enrollment continues to decline. The enrollment is at 1,639. But Crankshaw said Johnstown’s spending per pupil per year is $19,428 — much less than similar districts’ average of $23,508. The average spending per pupil for all of New York state’s school districts is $25,853.

The district’s budget is divided by: Programs — 72 percent; capital — 20 percent; and administrative — 8 percent costs.

Approximately $86,000 of the capital outlay is paid out of the capital reserve for construction.

Crankshaw said the district’s $29,327,699 program budget proposed for the next school year includes $8 million in employee benefits. The total for instruction proposed for next year is $18,578,485.

The district’s purchase plan for next year includes three, 66-passenger buses, which doesn’t come from the levy. They will be funded through the Capital Bus Purchase Reserve Fund.

About 90 percent of lease costs of buses are funded by New York state transportation aid.

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