Voorheesville School Board to send $27M budget to voters for approval

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Previously, transportation, operations, and maintenance for the Voorheesville schools were overseen by a single person, Mike Goyer, who is pictured along with Priscilla Clarke, Voorheesville’s transportation clerk on their last day of work in June 2019.

NEW SCOTLAND — The Voorheesville School Board at its April 12 meeting unanimously approved a $26.95 million budget for next year on which district residents will vote May 18.

Also on May 18, the two school board members up for re-election, James Coffin and Robert Samson, will face no opposition as they were the only two candidates to return their petitions before the April 19 filing deadline.

Voting will take place in person this year, but there will still be a vote-by-mail option — residents may request a ballot by calling the district office.

The proposed $26.95 million spending plan is up about 3.58 percent over this year, and, if approved by voters, would lead to a 2.72-percent increase in the property-tax levy, from about $18.8 million this year to approximately $19.3 million next year.  

For this year, New Scotland residents pay the Voorheesville School District taxes of about $19.72 per $1,000 assessed value of property, an increase of about a 27 cents per $1,000 from the 2019-20 school year; Guilderland residents pay about $17.95 per $1,000, up about 5 cents per $1,000 over 2019-20 school; and Berne residents pay about $33.24 per $1,000 assessed value of property in taxes to the district, an increase of $2.90 per $1,000 from the 2019-20 school year.

Berne has not revalued properties as recently as New Scotland and Guilderland so the rates, set through a state-set equalization process, reflect that.

 

Aid increase

Next year’s budget is buoyed by an influx of federal aid and the removal of something called local district funding adjustment, which was in the governor’s proposed January budget, allowing the district to expend the one-time revenue on some single-expense projects while saving some of its own money in the process.  

As part of the second round of COVID-related government stimulus, the $900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act, the district received about $1.13 million in federal aid in December 2020, and received about $283,000 from the American Rescue Plan, which passed in March

The federal money can be used for a number of COVID-related activities; however, at least 20 percent of the American Rescue Plan funds have to be used to address learning loss, or “additional supports for students or methods to help bring them up to level,” according to Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations James Southard

But between March and April, with the removal of the approximate $1.12 million local district funding adjustment — which had been the governor using the $1.13 million Consolidated Appropriations Act appropriation as a partial substitute for state aid — the district saw its approximately $427,00 budget shortfall turn into a one-time surplus of about $693,000.

The surplus meant Voorheesville didn’t have to allocate $300,000 of fund balance toward next year’s budget, and is allowing the district to match one-time expenses with some of the one-time revenue, for example, upgrading telephone systems, security, networks, and cameras at both the elementary school and at the middle and high school campus.

The one-time expenses are also aidable. 

State aid for 2021-22 is actually down overall due to a decrease in building aid, which is due to a 2001 capital project the district is no longer receiving aid for — building aid went from about $1.34 million this year to about $726,000 next year. 

On paper, the district is due to receive about $6.45 million but is only counting on approximately $6.13 million; it budgeted $6.5 million in state aid for this year. 

According to Southard, pre-kindergarten aid is, and always has been, grant money, so those funds cannot be counted in the district’s general fund; the district is due about $146,000 in pre-K aid. 

The other aid the district is undercounting is for transportation and for Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The BOCES aid is undercounted because that is “a communication from BOCES to the state about what services are in place at a certain time and their estimates of what the aid will be,” according to Southard, and transportation “due to the budget having to absorb everything that becomes necessary (no matter what the cost of fuel is or the transportation requirements).”

Voorheesville will see an increase in Foundation Aid next year of approximately $160,000.

 

New hires

In next year’s budget, the district will be looking to add three full-time employees — a special-education teacher at the high school, a teaching assistant at the elementary school, and a full-time operations-and-maintenance supervisor — and one part-time employee: a teacher at the high school.

Until 2019, when he retired, Voorheesville’s transportation, operations, and maintenance were overseen by a single person: Mike Goyer

But since then, transportation has been outsourced to BOCES and the work of the operations-and-maintenance supervisor has been shared between the Superintendent Frank and Southard.

During the April 12 board meeting, Macri said the job currently takes up 25 to 30 percent of his day, adding that, in most districts, the transportation supervisor and operations-and-maintenance supervisor are separate positions. 

 

In-person board meetings

Now that guidance is changing and people are getting vaccinated, the school board discussed onApril 12 if it should hold its next meeting in person, and record it but not livestream it. 

However,  there was concern about residents not being able to make comments as they are currently able to over Webex, the platform used to stream meetings — although it appears no one has actually ever used that option.

It was also noted that residents could send their comments by email.

The board ultimately decided it would have its next meeting in person so long as infection rates remain low and attendees sign up and attest in advance of the meeting. 

A decision about the May 10 meeting, which is the budget hearing and would likely be held in the performing arts center, will be made by May 1.

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