District works on budget

JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education conducted its first 2014-15 budget workshop Thursday night, but it didn’t immediately concentrate on numbers.

Instead, the session centered on recently proposed initiatives by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and district transportation needs.

School Business Manager Alice Sise said she has been fielding budget requests from throughout the district.

“Nothing’s jumping out at me,” Sise said. “Nothing’s causing me to gasp when it’s crossing my desk.”

The board scheduled another budget workshop for March 6. The public adopts the budget in May.

“Everything’s quite preliminary,” said board President Paul VanDenburgh.

District Superintendent Robert DeLilli said the state hasn’t generated any aid funding numbers yet for school districts. He said Cuomo is looking at making full-time prekindergarten programs mandatory in school districts.

“The devil’s in the details,” DeLilli said. “It will be very interesting. There’s a lot of political gamesmanship being played.”

Director of Curriculum, Testing and Personnel Patricia Kilburn said the district had 72 pre-K students last year.

DeLilli also said the district must be aware of a “tax freeze” Cuomo mentioned in his recent State of the State address. He said there would be a two-year freeze on property taxes. He said the state would pick up the cost of increases in a tax levy through rebate checks over the next two years, with certain conditions.

The superintendent also indicated a third “bomb” initiative dropped by Cuomo – a possible $2 billion technology bond to be decided by state voters. DeLilli said no one knows yet how this funding would be accessed.

“Those are some hot-button points and we’re waiting to see what the governor’s proposal looks like,” he said.

Sise told the board that since the district is sharing transportation with the Gloversville Enlarged School District, it is not leasing buses anymore. She is proposing the district buy three buses through the 2014-15 budget. It was noted buses cost about $100,000 apiece.

“I’m guessing the board would want to bond for those buses,” Sise said.

She said if state government “opens up the wallet,” the district also may want to consider establishing a capital reserve for buses. The reserve would have to be approved by district voters through a referendum, she said.

“That bus reserve, we really have to explain that to the public,” said board member Ron Beck.

Sise said the district is looking into the costs of grade-level grouping, which starts in the fall. She said there will be logistical costs with moving equipment from schools to schools.

“I’m thinking some high school kids will be looking for a job this summer,” Sise said.

She said the district may need more athletic equipment, such as track mats or soccer goals, and may want to resurface the track.

On the subject of staffing, DeLilli said the upcoming budget will take into consideration retirees, enrollment and support staff.

Michael Anich can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.