District eyeing 2.5% tax-levy hike

JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District’s estimated $30 million budget for 2014-15 is reflecting a roughly 2.5-percent tax-levy increase but figures may change pending adoption of the state budget.

The Board of Education met Thursday night at Glebe Street Elementary School and again reviewed preliminary budget figures compiled by School Business Manager Alice Sise.

The board set another meeting for 6 p.m. April 10 at Johnstown High School, at which time board President Paul VanDenburgh said the spending plan may be adopted. The budget then will go to district voters May 20.

“The budget the board adopts to put out to voters is the expense side,” Sise said. “You adopt the levy in the fall.”

But district officials must plug in levy numbers to craft the proposed spending plan, and Sise said the district is looking at a 2.47 percent tax-levy increase for 2014-15. That would provide an extra $187,034 to the levy and would be the maximum allowable increase under the state tax cap calculation.

The state budget for 2014-15 hasn’t been adopted by the state Legislature.

“Year after year, everybody’s asked to prepare a budget, but you have no figures,” said board member Kathryn Zajicek.

But district Superintendent Robert DeLilli reviewed a comparison of the executive budget proposal presented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and proposals by the state Senate and Assembly. He said the governor wants an $807 million increase in support for public schools, while the Senate proposal is $812 million and the Assembly’s is $1.1 billion. He said both the Cuomo budget and the Senate proposal show no increase in foundation aid.

“There are significant differences,” DeLilli said. “The education community is pretty disappointed in the Senate and Assembly proposals.”

Cuomo is also proposing a property tax freeze tied to staying under the tax cap and reducing the levy 3 percent.

“I’m very leery of this property tax-relief freeze,” VanDenburgh said. “It’s just mind-boggling to me.”

The Johnstown district is showing a proposed $670,968 increase in total state aid. Real property taxes would go from $7.56 million to $7.75 million. Total projected revenue is expected to rise by $726,372 – from $27.1 million to $27.8 million.

A comparison of this year’s budget and next year’s shows the budget going from $29.9 million in expenses to $30.73 million for 2014-15, or a 2.86 percent increase, although officials said that figure could decrease. The largest increase would be in supplies – 0.26 percent – from $647,893 to $747,342.

Benefits are expected to decrease by 1.2 percent, from $7.64 million in 2013-14 to $7.44 million in 2014-15.