JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The focal point of Election Day is often which candidates will declare victory in their city or town. However, in addition to politician names, voters will see proposed amendments to New York’s constitution on the ballot.
Administrators at the Greater Johnstown School District hope that voters say “yes” to Proposition One, which affects how much debt they’re able to incur.
School districts in cities with 125,000 residents or fewer–like Albany, Troy, and Johnstown—are currently capped at borrowing five percent of the value of taxable real estate in the district.
If this constitutional amendment is passed, small city school districts would be eligible to have the same debt limit as other school districts.
To Johnstown Superintendent Dr. William Crankshaw, Prop One means a leveling of the playing field between his small city district, and rural or suburban school districts.
“The ability to have that flexibility to borrow more when we need it, whether it’s for larger projects, or for some unforeseen situation in our capital project planning,” Dr. Crankshaw said, “I think it’s a huge advantage to a central school district who can now borrow at ten percent.”
A constitutional amendment, similar to this one, appeared on New York ballots in 2003, but voters rejected it. Crankshaw believes it wasn’t made clear to the public what the prop would do.
“The language was very confusing. It looked like higher taxes, when it’s none of that. It’s just our ability to borrow more money when it comes to capital planning, and I think that it’s our job to explain to our taxpayers and our parents what this is all about,“ Dr. Crankshaw said.
Assistant Superintendent Alicia Koster explained that, removing the five percent debt limit on small districts doesn’t mean a spending frenzy will follow.
“While it might increase our borrowing power, we still have a responsibility on an annual basis to know what our taxpayers can afford, and what’s reasonable in that single year budget,“ Koster said.
Proposition One has support from Governor Kathy Hochul, who signed the bill that addresses the debt limit disparity last week. If the majority of voters say “yes” to Prop One, the law will take effect.