District eyes rise in proposed expenses

JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education on Tuesday night reviewed preliminary 2014-15 district budget figures showing $30.7 million in proposed expenses – up about 3 percent from the current budget.

But district officials reviewing the figures at a board workshop at Johnstown High School said the figures could change before the budget is presented to the public for a vote in the spring.

“This budget is not finished,” school Business Manager Alice Sise emphasized.

A two-year comparison shows $30.7 million in proposed expenses for 2014-15 – a $854,039 increase, or 2.9 percent increase, over $29.9 million in expenses in the current budget. Total contractual expenses would increase by 1.76 percent, from $7.5 million currently to $8.3 million for the next school year.

Total projected revenue is expected to increase by $438,838 – from $27.08 million to $27.51 million. Total state aid is also expected to increase by $670,968, from $17.3 million to about $18 million for the next school year.

But Sise noted the “local revenue” part of the revenue budget, which includes BOCES revenue and tuition, is slated to decrease by $232,130 next year.

Sise said the district’s state-mandated tax cap would be about 3.1 percent, according to preliminary figures. The district’s current levy from real property taxes stands at $7.56 million and the district can only raise the levy by another $235,677 to stay within the tax cap.

“This may change a little as we move forward,” Sise said. “We’ve really got to be cognizant of not cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

She said the district’s tax levy won’t actually be fully set until the fall.

“There’s no program cuts, no cuts to any classes or anything,” Sise said of the estimated budget.

District Superintendent Robert DeLilli said state lawmakers are still reviewing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state budget, which includes state aid figures. He said the revenue side of his district’s projected budget is still “fluid.”

DeLilli said other things that may impact the proposed budget for next year will be the city of Johnstown’s proposed revaluation, and Cuomo’s proposed two-year tax freeze. He called the freeze idea “insane.”

DeLilli said the district also has to plan for the future, including looking at reserves to “stabilize any tax issues we may have.”

Sise said the district will gradually learn more that will go into the proposed budget at a future session.

“Next time you come, we’ll have a little more detail,” she said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.