$22.5M budget proposed for VCSD

— Photo by Lisa Nicole Viers

Voorheesville Elementary School would bear the brunt of proposed cuts as enrollment at the school declines.

VOORHEESVILLE — The school board here is considering a $22.5 million budget for next year that is just about $7,000 higher than this year’s budget, but would entail nearly $420,000 in cuts to stay below the state-set tax-levy limit.

The wealthy suburban district, with scant business for a tax base, gets not quite a quarter of its budget from state aid—slated to be about $30,000 lower next year at $5 million; another $1.1 million is to come from other revenue streams. That leaves the lion’s share of $16.4 million to be raised from property taxes.

Many of the cuts outlined at a presentation Monday are due to a decrease in enrollment — from 1,173 to 1,145 — most notably at the elementary school level. There were 535 students in kindergarten through fifth grade in the 2008-09 school year, and a projection of only 476 for the next year.

“I think it’s just general population trends,” Sarita Winchell, interim superintendent for business, told The Enterprise Tuesday. “I know it was a concern even two and a half years ago.”

Cuts due to lower enrollment include reduction of one elementary school teacher, one elementary school teaching assistant (non-special education), one special education teacher/teaching assistant in the high school, and one bus driver.

Also, there will be a decrease in the equipment budget and the wrestling team will move to the Guilderville model currently used by the swim team, where students from neighboring Guilderland make up a team with Voorheesville, sharing a coach.

Winchell noted that employee benefits are one of the factors that drives budget numbers up. The state sets the amounts that schools must contribute to retirement pleas.

“That’s always the killer,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

Contractual costs are slated to go up about $31,000; benefits about $282,000, and special-education costs about $56,000.

Closing the gap

At the meeting, Winchell discussed considerations for closing the gap while keeping students the top priority.

“It’s students first, always students,” she said.

Cuts proposed for the 2014-15 budget intended to help close the gap come from the elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as the music program, and custodial and clerical positions.

The elementary school would lose one science teaching assistant, one computer instructor, and one classroom teacher — changing the fourth grade to four sections instead of five.

The music program is losing over $35,000, but the impact on the program has not been determined by the Music Department yet.

At the middle and high schools, family and consumer science will be cut as an option, and French language classes will be changed to Spanish. No French will be offered at the district.

One custodial position will be cut, saving almost $41,000, and clerical time will be reduced, saving $59,000. The clerical positions or working hours to be eliminated have not been chosen yet.

At the end of all these cuts, a gap of $98,937 remains.

In order to finish closing the gap, the board is looking at things like increasing class sizes, and decreasing supply budgets, high-school electives, and clubs and sports teams.

Looking ahead

At the meeting, Winchell also noted that some of the numbers the district is working with right now on the budget are fluid and may still change, such as state aid and health- and dental-insurance numbers.

Some attendees at the meeting on Monday were curious about how faculty and staff cuts would be made. Winchell and Superintendent Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder said cuts would be made based on seniority, and the newest person in a given position being cut was not a reflection on their job performance.

Additionally, the school is proposing the purchase of one 72-passenger school bus, one wheelchair bus, and one maintenance truck with a plow. These purchases will total $220,000, which voters will decide on in a separate proposition. The district is reimbursed by the state approximately 52 percent for bus purchases.

Winchell, who had been a long-time business administrator for the district before retiring in 2011, emphasized throughout the budget presentation that the budget planning is multi-year—there is no quick fix for one year’s budget that won’t adversely affect the following years.

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Upcoming budget meetings include a March 24 public budget meeting from 7:30-9 p.m. in the high school Commons, a budget hearing May 12, and voting on the budget May 20.

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