Letter to the Voorheesville community

To the Editor:

For the past few years, the Voorheesville Central School District has started the budget development process in December. The VCSD Board of Education and district administrators have spent five months in public meetings listening, learning, and considering possible staffing and operational decisions in order to present a fiscally responsible budget to the community in May. The community is invited to attend these budget development meetings and this practice has resulted in a transparent and predictable budget process.

This spring, the district incurred unexpectedly high expenses in its prescription-drug program. These high costs exceeded the budgeted amounts for the current fiscal year by a substantial margin. These increased prescription-drug costs are expected to continue under the district’s current employee health-insurance programs.

To proceed with a viable budget while reasonably containing costs to the community, the VCSD board was forced to make a number of additional cuts to next year’s budget shortly before the board acted on it, including the elimination of teacher and teacher-aid positions, reductions in student transportation services, and the elimination of academic programming.

As your representatives, we are tasked with making difficult decisions in the best interest of our entire community. This year, the district’s state-derived tax level limit, or “cap,” is 2.96 percent. While the VCSD board could have presented a budget to the community that exceeded the “cap” — meaning we would need a supermajority of voters to approve the proposed budget — we were unwilling to consider this option to remain fiscally responsible to all taxpayers.

Upon extensive review of the circumstances facing our district, the VCSD board adopted a proposed budget of $25,405,232.44 that remains within the “cap” as determined by the prescribed New York State formula and also identified important mitigating steps designed to contain future costs. The steps to be taken over the next six months are as follows:

— Place an immediate freeze on discretionary spending to the end of the current school year;

— Conduct a comprehensive analysis to determine potential restructuring and realignment opportunities to maintain academic excellence in our schools; and

— Convene meetings to identify options for upcoming budgets.

As we move forward to address these fundamental organizational issues in the coming year, we remain committed to continuing to provide our students with academic programs that support their potential and allow them to excel in a 21st-Century learning environment while continuing to be fiscally responsible and limiting the property tax burden on our community. We thank you for your support of our students and schools.

Doreen Saia

President, for the

Voorheesville School Board

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