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State budget cuts to impact GJSD | News, Sports, Jobs

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JOHNSTOWN — A 20 percent state aid reduction for the Greater Johnstown School District could result in a nearly $5 million gap in the district’s budget by the end of the 2020-21 school year.

That scenario, which officials say might result in layoffs, was presented by district administrators to the Board of Education Thursday night.

But district officials say the city school system might be able to sustained half as much of a reduction in state aid, without layoffs.

District Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan and Assistant Superintendent Ruthie Cook reported to the board that the Johnstown school district still doesn’t have a true grasp of how much aid may be cut. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state previously said publicly that a 20 percent reduction in state aid to school districts might be in the offing.

Geelan said the district has heard of immediate state aid cuts, which results in an $89,000 shortfall. She said that would have been able to pay for 255 Chromebooks for remote learning for district students.

But Geelan said a further analysis shows that if a 20 percent state aid reduction comes to fruition over the next six months, the Johnstown district budget will have a $4.8 million hole by year’s end.

The district has just come through two full years of budget uncertainty and is now dealing with COVID.

On July 28, district voters approved a $38.9 million 2020-21 district budget in a revote, which had a 5 tax levy increase. The district is in a three-year financial plan and has hoped to keep taxes down again for the next school year’s budget.

The tax levy increase of 5 percent exceeded the statutory levy increase of negative 2.02 percent for the 2020-21 school fiscal year and therefore exceeded the state tax cap. If the revote had failed, the district would have had to a contingency budget. The previous school year, district voters eventually approved a budget with a 14 percent tax levy hike, but athletics was eliminated. Athletics was restored for this school year.

Cook noted media outlets are now saying the state may not impose a 20 percent state aid cut on school districts. But she said if the computation was lower — or about 10 percent — the district would be able to sustain the financial blow without layoffs.

“We should be able to avoid these things,” Cook said.

In that scenario, Geelan said the district has “got it covered.”

Cook said the district estimated it can use fund balance and some reserves — under certain guidelines– to offset a lesser state aid reduction nearly half as much as 20 percent.

She said the state comptroller is telling school districts that during the pandemic they can borrow from their own reserves and pay themselves back. She said the district has applied for CARES Act money, for which it may be eligible for up to $420,000. In addition, she said the district may be able to use unassigned fund balance to bridge gaps.

Cook said that like other school districts, Johnstown faces uncertainty moving ahead. To meet the issue of a huge reduction in state aid, she said the district may have to do three main things: “underspending” the budget, make reductions, and utilizing reserves.

“The financial effects of this pandemic cook be three to five years,” Cook said.

Geelan said that whatever happens on the state aid front, the district should not abandon its prudent financial plan.

“It really is important to stick with that critical mission,” she said.

She sad the district is going to realize some savings through athletics not played initially, but some sports weren’t canceled but rather postponed.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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Three people injured in Ishpeming crash today | News, Sports, Jobs

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A four-car accident backed up traffic in the eastbound lane of U.S. 41 in Ishpeming near Northiron Church and the Ishpeming Armory on this afternoon. No further details are known at this time. (Journal photo by Ashley Hendrix)

ISHPEMING — Three people were injured as a result of three-car accident near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Malton Road at the Ishpeming/Negaunee border today.

According to Ishpeming Police Chief Steve Snowaert, two passenger cars and a truck were involved in the crash, which took place at around 12:35 p.m. A fourth vehicle was damaged by debris from the accident.

The occupants of the two smaller vehicles were transported to UPHS-Marquette. Their condition is currently unknown. The occupants of the truck and the fourth vehicle were uninjured, Snowaert said. Traffic was reduced to two lanes until about 3 p.m. as a result of the crash.

The Michigan State Police crash reconstruction unit was on the scene to assist, he said.

Snowaert is asking anyone who may have seen the crash to contact the IPD at 906-486-4416.

“We are still gathering information,” Snowaert said. “So from our standpoint, if anyone witnessed the accident, we would like to hear from them.”

IPD was assisted at the scene by the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, the Negaunee Police Department, the Negaunee Fire Department, the Ishpeming Fire Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

See Friday’s edition of The Mining Journal for more information.

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Conservative MP quits government job over free school meals

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Mr Bradley defended the support the government offers to poorer families and attacked the Labour, saying: “You’d think a truly ‘caring’ Labour party could recognise the huge difference between the majority of kids on [free school meals] who are not wealthy by any stretch, but who have good parents and are managing, and impoverished kids who are desperate.”

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Remembering a legacy | News, Sports, Jobs

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Photo courtesy of Peoples Bank Theatre
Left to right: Rita Stephan, Hunt Brawley, Kathy Mattea, and Dan Stephan smile in the green room below the Peoples Bank Theatre stage in 2017 before her second show in the Marietta theater.

From children in tutus to acrobats dropping from the rafters, the memories that one local patriarch has made possible for generations to come will not easily be forgotten.

And neither will he.

“It’s just hard to accept that he’ll not be back in here for another show,” said Hunt Brawley, executive director of the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta. “Dan was there through all of it … there are so few projects where you can point to somebody and remove him from the equation and it doesn’t happen. But this, it would have never happened without him.”

Dan Sanders Stephan Sr., 83, of Williamstown, passed away Monday.

A Marietta High School and Marietta College graduate, Stephan Sr. made marks on the community through the family businesses distributing periodicals and retail support of news distribution through Peoples News.

He was even a director of the Williamstown Bank.

But his public legacy?

“I think the theater is his legacy to the most extent,” said Dan Stephan Jr. as he recalled the years of faith and work his father dedicated to saving, renovating and embedding new life into the Hippodrome, Colony and most recently named Peoples Bank Theatre on Putnam Street two doors down from Peoples News.

“He was the theater,” said Brawley. “He’s done everything to make the theater happen, right from the very beginning.”

Stephan Sr. shared numerous memories over the years in the theater of his childhood and adolescence watching acts and movies within the seats of the venue.

He purchased the property in the 1980s with the eye on reopening its closed doors.

“He bought the theater in 1988 and held it for a while thinking he’d restore it and realized it would take more money than just one person,” said Brawley. “I met Dan in 1999 or 2000.”

And at that point, Brawley explained, the theater’s structure was part of a Community 2020 visioning process for Marietta.

“I just remember sitting with a group of people and everyone having all of these ideas of what should be done with the theater and I remember thinking, well, ‘who owns the theater?’” Brawley recalled. “I guess I was entrusted with that task and called him up and he suggested that we meet with Carol Wharff at the community foundation.”

Of the original six that started meeting, and by 2004 were the founding board members when Stephan Sr. donated the property to the nonprofit, four have now passed on, Brawley said.

But while the public celebrated the Jan. 8, 2016, successful reopening and in the last four years since have attended recitals, parties, nationally and internationally-acclaimed acts and celebrations of faith and history within the walls of the theater, it was those smiles, laughter and cheers that kept Stephan Sr. entering the doors.

“I think he came more to see the reactions, to see the families here together,” recalled Brawley, his right eye glistening as memories of his friend struck him Wednesday.

Brawley and Stephan Jr. recalled multiple stops and starts throughout the visioning, planning, designing and financing stages of the theater’s restoration.

“He just always remembered going to the Colony Theatre and the place being such a joy from way back when,” said Brawley.

And those years of work from 2000 to 2015 were not easy years, Brawley noted.

“We lost twice, nearly lost the third time, but we kept crawling forward,” he explained. “Dan could have sent me packing years ago, after the recession, really anytime.”

But with faith in the vision for sharing similar family experiences and childhood with generations to come, Stephan Sr. never gave up.

Serendipity

That persistent vision saw a small reward near the end of construction when a signature painted across a concrete block wall beneath the stage was found five years ago.

The signature was of Dan Stephan Sr.’s father, Floyd Stephan, dated 1933, three years before Stephan Sr. was born.

“I remember he always said he knew there was a reason he was doing this when he saw that,” said Stephan Jr.

Stephan Sr. shared that memory on the night he was surprised at the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce Dinner in 2017, with the recognition of Gabe Zide Citizen of the Year award.

“My dad was in a minstrel show in 1932 with the high school and they performed when the theater was the Hippodrome,” explained Stephan Sr. “And now people are enjoying the music, the arts and the interaction that I did there growing up.”

Now, three generations of Stephan family members have signed the wall beneath and are surrounded by more than 1,000 signatures of large national acts, private wedding parties, local solo musicians and young aspiring artists in the chorus dressing room beneath the stage.

But Stephan Sr. was a humble man, often passing on the praise directed his way with a hug and a smile.

“It wasn’t me that brought the (Peoples Bank Theatre) to life,” he said. “It was the community that embraced it through the renovations and then … by continuing to come to the shows and buy tickets.”

In lieu of a large ceremony or funeral, the family asks in accordance with the patriarch’s wishes that donations be made to the Hippodrome Colony Endowment Fund at the Marietta Community Foundation, 100 Putnam St., Marietta, in memory of Dan Stephan Sr.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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