Voorheesville Public Library’s proposed budget for 2023-24 is up 5%, taxes up 4.6%

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer
 Voorheesville Library Trustee Alan Kowlowitz decided not to seek a second five-year term, paving the way for former village planning commission chair Georgia Gray to join the library board unopposed. Gray is shown here in that earlier role as she waits patiently for New Scotland resident Paul Steinkamp to read some of the 22 pages he compiled on problems with Stewart’s proposal to build near the intersection of route 156 and 85A in Voorheesville, which ultimately failed.

VOORHEESVILLE — Voters in the Voorheesville Central School District on May 16, in addition to deciding on a $30.1 million school budget for next year, will have a say on the Voorheesville Public Library’s proposed $1.28 million spending plan for 2023-24, which is up about 4.95 percent over this year’s voter-approved budget.

Voorheesville school and library budget votes are often perfunctory affairs, with two-thirds to three-quarters of residents typically casting ballots in favor of the proposed plans.  

Also on May 16, voters will have to decide whether to cast their ballots for unopposed candidates in the school and library board elections. 

School board President Rachel Gilker and Trustee Barbara Owens, who was appointed in September after James Coffin stepped down over the summer, won’t face any competition in pursuit of their respective second and first full four-year terms.

At the library, with Trustee Alan Kowlowitz deciding not to run for  re-election, Georgia Gray is unopposed in her second bid for a five-year term on the board. (Gray is the wife of Enterprise columnist Dennis Sullivan.)

Voters will have the opportunity to vote on the library’s budget for next year because it’s seeking an increase in the tax levy, which accounts for about 98 percent of the library’s revenue, and is set to increase from about $1.2 million this year to $1.25 million next year. New York State Education Law says that annual votes for library budgets  are not required because once a spending plan has been approved by residents, it’s “considered an annual appropriation until changed by further vote.”

The decision not to send flat budgets to voters was made two years ago after it was proposed by Library Director Sarah Clark, who brought the practice from the Albany Public Library system where she worked for 13 years before becoming Vooheesville’s director in 2018.

The Voorheesville library’s proposed $1.28 million budget for next year, which is under the state-set cap by about $14,000, is set to raise tax rates for property owners in the towns of New Scotland, Guilderland, and Berne by about 4.59 percent. 

New Scotland residents’ tax rate will increase from $1.23 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.29 per $1,000; in Guilderland, the rate will go from $1.09 to $1.14 per $1,000; and in Berne, residents’ tax rate will increase from $1.99 to $2.08 per $1,000 of assessed home value, according to the library.

According to the library, a home in the district with an assessed value of $300,000 will pay about $17 more in property taxes next year if it’s located in New Scotland; $15 more in Guilderland; and $27 more in Berne. 

The spending increase for 2023-24 is largely attributable to a 23.3-percent hike in employee benefits, from $202,000 to $249,000 — which is due to higher mandatory payments to the state’s retirement system — and a 43-percent spike in maintenance and utilities costs, which are set to increase from $44,000 to $63,300.



“It’s largely because Georgia [Gray] was interested in running,” Kowlowitz said of his decision not to run for a second term. “I think very highly of her work, [what] she’s done on the planning board and for the village … I told her if she was going to run, I would not.”

He continued, “I’m 72, and I have a lot on my plate.”

Kowlowitz spearheaded the creation of the joint town-village Historic Preservation Committee, which he now chairs. 

Kowlowitz pointed to the appointment of Clark as library director as one of the board’s major accomplishments in his time. “It really solidified our ability to work together,” he said. Individually, Kowlowitz said he was proudest of his policy work with Clark. “I think I really moved the library forward, as far as policies,” he said.

Since August 2020, the earliest available archived version of the library’s policy page from its website, Voorheesville has increased its total policy agenda from 11 items to 14. 

Gray, who lost last year to Linda Conway for a spot on the board, said she’s running because, “One, I love the library,” and she likes being involved in the community. “I spent 20 years on the Voorheesville Planning Commission,” she said, many of them as its chair. She stepped down about two years ago. 

Another reason Gray said she’s running is she’s “concerned that some libraries are under attack.”

Following their inception during the pandemic in opposition to COVID-19 restrictions, a number of conservative “parental rights” groups began to take aim at the content of their childrens’ classroom curriculum and subject matter of certain books in the school library. 

Since 2020, data from the American Library Association shows censorship demands have increased eightfold — from 156 in 2020 to 1,269 last year, with the “vast majority”  of those demands being made about books that “were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.” 

But when it comes to book bans in Voorheesville, Gray said, “It’s not like I’m on the edge of my seat or anything,” she said, noting that the community “is pretty open-minded and appreciates what the library offers, what the school offers.”

As for her reading habits, there’s just too much great prose from too many remarkable writers for Gray to narrow down her choices to a favorite book and author; instead she chooses to read widely, with her choices running the gamut from the doorstop biographies of Ron Chernow to the work of versatile novelist Walter Mosley.

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