The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 28, 2013

No tax increase in Johnstown school district

Frank Sojak

— The Greater Johnstown school board adopted a 2013-14 budget of $46.3 million that retains current taxes.

The budget lists local, federal and state revenues of nearly $40 million plus $6.2 million from the fund balance.

The last time the board raised the millage rate of 46.8 mills was 16 years ago.

Schools Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak said at the special meeting on Thursday that the school board should be commended for 16 years of good financial practices. The board members have demonstrated great care for the district’s property owners and educational outcomes, he said.

In recent years, the board had to respond to what seems to be Draconian cuts from federal and state sources when it came to drafting a budget, he said.

In a related matter, Zahorchak told the board that the district is urging all property owners to apply for the state’s Homestead and Farmstead exclusions. The legislation provides funds for property tax relief through gaming proceeds.

In many cases, he said, the legislation has sliced taxes by 60 or 70 percent.

In other business, the board hired three special education teachers, a reading specialist, a mathematics teacher, an English teacher and a psychologist.

The district was presented with a flag that flew in Kuwait on Nov. 11, 2012, by one of its teachers, Bill Cacciotti, a member of the Army Reserve who has served a number of times in the Middle East.

“We are planning to have Bill share his experiences as an American hero with the students,” Zahorchak said.

The district is considering leasing a building on Franklin Street in the Eighth Ward if a number of Chinese exchange students decide to study in the district next year.

The students and their families will be in Johnstown on July 8 to take a tour of the district and other sites. Community members will help with the tour, Zahorchak said.

The students’ families would be responsible for all costs related to leasing the building, including utilities.

They also would be responsible for food and supervision for their children and would pay full tuition, Zahorchak said.