JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District’s $39.9 million school budget was approved by voters 630-243 Tuesday night — the first time the district’s budget has been approved in its first vote in four years.
The approved budget includes a 3.8% property tax levy increase, equal to $393,247, significantly less than the property tax levy increase of 8 percent — $1.8 million — Johntown had originally projected before receiving a $776,948 increase in state and federal aid.
Johnstown’s budget includes a 2.5% year-over-year spending increase of $992,700. The budget also spends $2.5 million of the school district’s roughly $13.2 million in fund balance reserves.
Johnstown has been struggling with a fiscal crisis for the past several years as it has tried to close a large annual budget deficit, estimated at $4.3 million in 2019, leading the school board to propose large tax-cap-breaking tax levy increases several years in a row in an attempt to close the gap, while simultaneously closing an elementary school, the district’s junior high school, eliminating 25% of the district’s staff and for the 2019-20 school year eliminating nearly all district funding for athletic teams and extracurricular activities.
Johnstown’s 2021-22 budget adds three new staff positions, each with an estimated cost of $80,000, including salary and benefits: an elementary visual arts teacher; a behavioral specialist for general education classrooms; and a secondary mathematics teacher able to teach advanced placement coding.
The approved spending plan also calls for a full restoration of extracurricular activities and athletics, and funding for students to participate in important co-curricular activities like field trips.
District voters also:
• Re-elected Ronald Beck to his fifth term as a member of the Board of Education and elected newcomer Arthur R. Schrum Jr. and past board member Jennifer Sponnoble. All three will serve three-year terms. Beck received 522 votes, Schrum received 580 votes and Sponnoble received 579 votes.
• Authorized two expenditures using pre-existing funds from district reserves: the purchase of three school buses; and repairs to the junior-senior high school. Both expenditures will be 90% reimbursed by New York state.
• Approved changing the number of school board members from nine to seven. The change will take effect July 1, 2022.