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Community speaks out about failed Johnstown school budget

May 22, 2019 11:12 PM

JOHNSTOWN – Many parents, students and community members came out to a Johnstown Board of Education meeting Wednesday night after voters failed to pass the 2019-2020 school budget.

The proposed budget was for $38.6 million and included a 35 percent tax levy increase, which exceeds the schools tax levy cap. The district said the large increase in the tax levy was because historically they’ve kept it very low.

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"Little by little used the fund balance and that's the part where we were becoming too dependent on fund balances and said we really need to address this,” said Johnstown Board of Education President Kathy Dougherty.

Since the budget didn’t pass, the board of education has to go back to the drawing board to create a new one. It’s been discussed the new budget will have the tax levy brought down to the cap, which is a 14.6 percent increase. That will likely mean cuts to sports programs, extracurricular activities and Advanced Placement classes. However Dougherty didn’t want to speculate on what may or may not be cut.

"We actually didn't make a final decision on that,” said Dougherty referring to the tax levy. “The board will be discussing that and looking at what that means."

The community had the chance to speak during the public comment period at the meeting Wednesday night. Christopher Tallon, a newly elected board of education member, expressed concern over those who voted against the budget.

"While the proposed budget last night was not perfect, it was a start of a plan to corrects the past wrongdoings of the district,” said Tallon. “I hope all people who voted no last night will join those who are in favor to become involved, engaged but offering realistic ideas, solutions to our current situation."

Also speaking out was student Meghan Mraz, a sophomore who plays varsity field hockey and basketball.

"I'm hearing from my peers and families nobody wants to stay with nothing extra to do, because I know from my peers these things are their saving grace,” said Mraz referring to sports and extracurricular programs.

Another student pleaded with the board to find middle ground when it comes to proposing a new tax levy.

"I completely understand that there are citizens in Johnstown that are on fixed incomes, I myself have family on fixed incomes but I believe we can make a legal compromise that can benefit both the school and the tax payers,” said junior Jacob Frenyea.

Voters will head to the polls on June 18 to vote on a new budget that is expected to be presented to the community on June 11 at a public hearing. 

Credits

Emily De Vito

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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