JOHNSTOWN -- Private fundraising efforts for the Greater Johnstown School District's athletic teams have raised $202,000 — enough money to fund its varsity and modified sports programs — district officials said Thursday night.
District Superintendent Patricia Kilburn told the school board that private fundraising for Johnstown's sports, led by the Purple and Gold Booster Club and Field Hockey Varsity Coach Christine Krempa, is poised to bring the district close to its total goal of raising $311,000.
But if that does not happen, Kilburn said, Johnstown's Athletic Department has recommended the district keep all of its sports on the varsity and modified level, but cut some of its junior varsity teams.
"Our decision was to try to support the full range of sports, from golf to football to bowling to track," Kilburn said. "So, we'll be able to run all of those, but what will remain is whether we can run all of the levels," she said.
"We may not be able to offer JV in all of the sports, which would mean the children will still play, but grade 9 kids may play up into varsity, or play down into modified. ... So, it may affect playing time for some children, but would still allow them to participate in sports and be a part of a team."
Johnstown eliminated nearly all funding for its after-school athletics programs after voters on May 21 rejected a budget that carried a 35 percent tax levy increase. The budget failed to garner the 60 percent supermajority needed to override the New York state property tax cap.
The district has been reeling from a $4.3 million school budget deficit for the last several years, brought on by a combination of factors that included declining enrollment, increasing salary and benefit costs, and a failure to raise the district's tax levy high enough in past years.
District voters approved a $37.87 million 2019-20 budget with a 14.6 percent tax levy on June 18, and fundraising to pay for the cut sports programs began the next day with the "1,000 Citizens to Save Our Sports" evening that generated just under $95,000.
Dick's Sporting Goods recently made an $11,000 donation through its Dick's Sports Matter Foundation that helped Johnstown get to the $200,000 mark. The school board formally accepted a number of other small business and corporate donations Thursday night, including: $5,000 from the Stewart's/Dake Family; $5,000 from Walmart; $2,000 from Brown's Ford of Johnstown; $1,250 from ADK Field Hockey; $1,000 from Alpin Haus Ski Shop; $1,000 from Tamara Dunlap DDS; $1,000 from Dunlap Chiropractic; $1,000 from Romana's Italian Kitchen; $1,000 from Konstantinos Vahaviolos; $1,000 from GR Austin Enterprises; $1,000 from Shelly VanNostrand CPA; $1,000 from Tim Derwin Builders; $1,000 from the Lippert Company; $750 from Krempa Custom Landscaping & Design, and many others.
Johnstown's Purple and Gold Club Booster Club has scheduled another fundraiser for Aug. 24 called "Rock Out for Sports." The event will be held at the Fox Run Golf Club and feature several bands, along with raffles and food vendors.
School Board President Chris Tallon said no decisions have been made yet as to which JV teams might be cut if the remaining $100,000 needed is not raised.
"Our goal is still to have everything no matter what," Tallon said.
The school board passed a resolution hiring seven coaches Thursday night, adding to a longer list of coaches hired at its last board meeting. Coaches hired Thursday were: Jay Holland, Golf Head Coach ($2,315), Patrick Fleming, No. 6 Football Assistant ($2,315), Gary Hall, No.7 Football Assistant ($2,205), Amy Sanjurjo, Boys Soccer Assistant No. 1 ($2,777), Chad Fitzpatrick, Girls Soccer unpaid assistant, Holly Livingston, Volleyball Head Coach ($3,770) and Nicole Naselli, Boys Soccer Head Coach, ($3,770).
In a busy school board agenda, the board also accepted the resignations of Patricia Kilburn and Glebe Street Principal Abbey North and appointed former Johnstown elementary school principal Joyce Caputo as an interim principal.
The consensus of the board was to seek a long-term interim superintendent to fill in after Kilburnshe leaves on Sept. 29.
Kilburn was appointed district superintendent at the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES on July 29.
Tallon said Johnstown is consulting with Capital Region BOCES Superintendent Anita Murphy, who will help with the superintendent search.
"[Murphy] asked for the qualities that we want to see," Tallon said. "I came up with a few. One, I think is important, no previous ties to the district. It's got to be a clean slate. Anybody who comes in has to have no prior experience here to get us on the right track."
Board member Ron Beck said: "But who hopefully knows Johnstown. I mean we had a superintendent who came from New York City, Long Island, a number of years ago, and that was a complete nightmare."
Atter the meeting, Beck and school board member Noelle Smrtic each said they would no longer be commenting on school district issues except at school board meetings, preferring to allow Tallon to speak for the entire board. This is a change from past years.
Kilburn said her decision to the leave the district was a difficult one. She said being a BOCES superintendent will give her a chance to influence the lives of 25,000 students in 12 school districts.
"[I'm hoping] to help them navigate resource issues that Johnstown is currently navigating and still build great end points for their children," Kilburn said. "I wanted to have that opportunity, because I've learned a lot here at Johnstown about [the question] 'How can we still do what's right for children, when we're strapped', and you know what, New York state schools are going to be strapped. Johnstown is experiencing something kind of unique right now, but we are not alone."
Kilburn also said Johnstown will continue to face its ongoing fiscal crisis for the next several years. She said the budget approved in June helped reduce the district's budget deficit by about $1 million, but Johnstown will still need tax levy increases of 15 percent for each of the next three years in order to return to fiscal stability. Those tax levy increases will each need a 60 percent supermajority of voters to approve them.
"I think the community understands that, though we might be headed in the right direction, we're certainly not on an easy path," Kilburn said. "So, you can point your boat in the right direction and still be navigating treacherous seas, and I would say that there are certainly rough waters ahead for Johnstown, in terms of that need to continually increase revenue and the understanding of what it means to support a school community and its children"