The Johnstown School district’s budget was the only budget in the Capital Region that failed to pass in last week’s school elections. Now the district is examining major cuts to programs if taxpayers vote down a revised budget proposal in June. Cuts could include kindergarten and all varsity sports which aren’t mandated by the state.
When little Aria is old enough to go to school, her dad Josh Rigo wants his daughter to have the best experience she can, including attending kindergarten and eventually playing sports.
“It’s important for us to have everything that’s available to other kids available for my daughter too,” said Rigo. “They need to be in school and be socialized and have that time to interact with the other kids.”
June Bentley feels the same way about her grandson.
“I want him to have the opportunity to do baseball, football, and whatever else is out there that will help him through his life,” said Bentley.
However, by the time Rigo and Bentley’s children grow up, those programs may not be available in Johnstown, if the district can’t find a way to solve its fiscal problems.
The school district tried to solve the issue by increasing the tax levy by 4.9% and eliminating 13 staff positions and three sports teams in its budget proposal, but taxpayers voted it down. Now, board members are working on revisions.
Board President Kathy Dougherty says the revised budget has not been finalized, but it will likely include similar cuts as the first time and a tax levy increase between 3% and 3.9%.
If the budget does not pass the second time around, the district will need to be put on a contingency budget, which could mean cutting all varsity sports and kindergarten, as well as several extra-curricular activities.
“We’re really trying to gage the sense of the community,” said Dougherty. “We’ve got a list of things that we will be looking at.”
Dougherty says she is confident kindergarten will not be on the chopping block.
“I would say that is our very worst, worst case scenario. That’s the last thing that we would want to do,” said Dougherty.
Dougherty says these aren’t easy decisions, but due to rises in benefit costs and a lack of dramatic changes to state aid, the district does not have many choices.
“We’re just consumed with what to do and what’s the best thing to do and how to move forward,” said Dougherty.
If the district cuts too much, some parents say they will take things into their own hands.
“If they do plan on eliminating kindergarten or sports programs, we will probably will end up looking on going into a different district,” said Josh Rigo.
The second budget vote will be held on June 19. In order to pass, 60% of taxpayers must vote in approval.