Voorheesville presents $26M draft for 2020-21 district budget

Enterprise file photo — Sean Mulkerrin 

Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri said that the school district’s $26 million budget for 2020-21 had a deficit that was about “on par” with previous first-draft budgets. Macri told the school board in January that the estimated increase in the tax-levy limit for next year would be about 3.13 percent. 

NEW SCOTLAND — This time last year, the Voorheesville Central School District had yet to be hit with the dramatic increases in prescription drug rates that led to a half-million-dollar budget shortfall in this year’s budget. Drug costs have since “stabilized,” leaving the district looking at an initial budget gap of $170,000 for the 2020-21 school year.

In March 2019, it was announced that the district’s self-funded prescription-drug plan, after years with barely any increase, was experiencing a 35-percent spike in costs, that led to deep cuts to balance this year’s $25.4 million budget, which voters overwhelmingly approved in May 2019, and which also raised property taxes by 2.96 percent, the maximum increase allowed by the state.

At the Feb. 10 school board meeting, Superintendent Frank Macri said that Voorheesville’s $170,000 deficit for 2020-21 was about “on par” with previous first-draft budgets. In February 2019, a month before the prescription-drug cost spikes were made public, the district was facing a $204,000 budget gap; in February 2018, it was a $206,000 shortfall; and in February 2017, the budget deficit was $24,000, down from $94,000 just a month earlier.

Macri said that he had actually anticipated the 2020-21 budget gap to be closer to $120,000 or $150,000, adding that some districts start the budget process with deficits of as much as a million dollars. 

So, of a budget gap between $120,000 and $170,000, he said, “That’s not too bad.” Macri stressed that the anticipated revenues the district would take in for the 2020-21 school budget are an estimate; the final numbers will be a bit different and should be known by the end of the month.

In January, Macri told the school board that the estimated increase in the tax-levy limit for the 2020-21 school year would be about 3.13 percent, which would yield the district an additional $570,000 for next year. The 3.13-percent increase is the maximum property-tax increase the district can ask voters to approve; it could also be an increase smaller than 3.13 percent. If the district were to exceed the levy limit, more than 60 percent of voters would have to approve the budget rather than a simple majority.

With an increase in the tax levy and an infinitesimal increase in state aid, and with the addition of other miscellaneous revenues and fund balance, the district estimates  $26,082,115 in total revenues next year: about $18.76 million from the tax levy, the maximum allowed; about $6.5 million in state aid; $492,500 in miscellaneous revenues, for example, Medicaid reimbursement and the sale of surplus property; and $300,000 from its fund balance. 

The infinitesimal increase in state aid, at first, appears to a respectable 4.2-percent increase, according to initial school-aid runs, but Voorheesville, like other comparatively well-off school districts, has been subject to the governor’s “fuzzy math.” 

Generally speaking, there are two types of state support — expense-driven aid and Foundation Aid, which is allocated based on need.

The state’s Foundation Aid program supplements local funding to help provide sufficient resources for an adequate education. For example, in 2017, Voorheesville and Berne-Knox-Westerlo had roughly the same number of students but Voorheesville, the wealthier of the two districts, received about $3.5 million in Foundation Aid, while BKW took home about $6 million.

With expense-driven aid, the more a district spends on things like textbooks or special education, the more it gets back from the state. In January, for example, Macri said that Voorheesville is reimbursed by the state for about 51 cents of every dollar it spends on Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). 

In previous state budgets, Foundation Aid and expense-driven aid were allocated separately. But this year, the governor has bound together all the different types of aid so it looks like a district is getting a lot more money than it actually is. 

So for the 2020-21 school year, Macri said on Feb. 10, Voorheesville will see a total increase in state aid of about 1.7-percent, or $105,000. While the actual increase in Foundation Aid is expected to be three-tenths of 1 percent, or $10,000.

A final budget will be presented to the school board at its April meeting with the voters having the final say on May 19.

For the current school year, New Scotland residents pay the Voorheesville School District taxes of about $19.45 per $1,000 assessed value of property; Guilderland residents pay about $17.90 per $1,000; and Berne residents pay about $30.33 per $1,000 assessed value of property in taxes to the district.

Prior to the state’s implementation of the tax cap, between 2004 and 2011, Voorheesville had an average levy increase of 4.3 percent, according to the Rockefeller Institute for Government. Since implementation, between 2012 and 2018, the average increase has been 2.1 percent.

 

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