Johnstown district voters to decide $15 million capital project referendum

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Repairs to the Johnstown High School auditorium are part of a $15 million capital project that voters will decide on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Greater Johnstown School District)

JOHNSTOWN — Taxpayers in the Greater Johnstown School District will head to polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a pair of referendums for a district-wide capital project and a new energy performance contract.

The $15 million capital project, if approved, would see the district undertake infrastructure renovations at five district buildings, including upgrades to the HVAC system and ventilation at the Johnstown Junior-Senior High School and new classroom windows at Warren Street Elementary School.

The slew of proposed upgrades at district buildings were identified in a 2020 district building condition survey.

“The district’s reasons for developing a capital project in the first place is to maintain and improve the facilities,” Superintendent Dr. William Crankshaw said on Thursday. “Ongoing improvements and continuous attention to the learning environment and the facilities we have in place just ensure that our buildings and grounds are going to meet our students’ needs for the future. This is just one stop in the continuous future planning for improvement and maintenance of the school buildings.”

Crankshaw said the district has been developing the proposed capital project over the last two years. Taxpayers previously approved a $39.6 million capital project from the district in 2017.

According to the district, there will be no increase in the district’s tax levy as a result of the $15 million capital project, which will utilize $1 million from the district’s reserves.

“We have a plan with this project to not only take care of our buildings and campuses, but also to take care of our finances as well in the future,” Crankshaw said. “So taxpayers aren’t going to see a sudden spike to fund any particular capital project. Everything is meant to be very consistent, from maintenance to financing the projects themselves.”

A separate referendum will be on the ballot Tuesday for a proposed 15-year energy performance contract (EPC) between the district and the John W. Danforth Company which is not to exceed $3 million.

“These are guaranteed energy savings for the next 18 years,” Crankshaw said. “The promise of the contract is 15 years of financing and 18 years of energy savings. So I don’t foresee us doing another EPC before that time frame is up.”

According to the district, the EPC project is self-funded through guaranteed energy savings and is designed to pay for itself over the 18-year timeframe.

Both the capital project and the EPC are set to receive 92 percent state aid financing if approved by residents.

“If we didn’t take the EPC to a vote, which legally we don’t have to, we would lose 10 percent of that state aid coming back to us,” Crankshaw said. “That is not a sound financial decision, so we’re putting both before the voters at the same time.”

The superintendent said that if the proposals are approved, that the project timeline would see 2023 utilized for planning, with construction on the capital project slated to begin in January, 2025.

The scope of the capital project includes exterior LED lighting at the high school, new theater seats in the school’s lecture hall, new student lockers at Warren Street Elementary and the installation of new kitchen equipment at Pleasant Avenue Elementary School, among other improvements.

Polls will be open on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the high school auditorium lobby, with a simple majority vote needed to pass each measure.

Correction 11:09 a.m. 11/14: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect day for the separate energy referendum. The correct day of the separate referendum is Tuesday.

By Ted Remsnyder

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