Status quo in Voorheesville: Conventional candidates win, school and library budgets pass with ease

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
Of the 1,101 ballots cast in Voorheesville on Tuesday, 893 were in favor of the $28.1 million budget for the 2022-23 school year and 208 were against it.

NEW SCOTLAND — There were no surprises in the May 17 budget and school board vote as next year’s spending plan was approved by over 80 percent of voters while the district’s so-called parents’ choice candidates received just one-third the vote tally of their rivals. 

Of the 1,101 ballots cast on Tuesday, 893 were in favor of the $28.1 million budget for the 2022-23 school year and 208 were against it. 

Based on the district’s growth factor, the actual tax rate property owners will pay for next year is expected to increase by less than 1 percent. This year, New Scotland residents have a school tax rate of $19.91 per $1,000 of assessed value; in Guilderland, it’s $18.12 per $1,000; and in Berne, residents have a tax rate of $33.55 per $1,000 of assessed value of their home, according to the district. ​

In the race for school board, incumbent Argi O’Leary was the night’s top vote-getter with 754 ballots cast in her favor. 

“Thanks to the over 1,100 members of our community who came out to vote and approved the budget and other proposals,” O’Leary told The Enterprise by email. “I am grateful to have been elected to a second term, and I look forward to continuing to help lead our district and to do what’s best for our students, teachers, and the community.”

With President Cindy Monaghan declining to run for a fourth four-year term, it left an open seat on the board that will be filled by Robyn Willoughby, a teacher in the Greenville Central School District, who received 743 votes on Tuesday. 

Willoughby did not respond to a request for comment. 

Candidates Vinny Commisso and Erika Smitkin, who’ve been tagged as having controversial views on some of the issues currently at the forefront of the education debate, received far fewer votes than either O’Leary or Willoughby. 

Commisso received 230 votes. He did not respond to a request for comment. 

Smitkin received 185 votes. 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been able to run. Although things didn’t go in my favor last night, the past several months have definitely been a learning opportunity,” Smitkin told The Enterprise by email. “I am still committed to the district and plan to be involved in whatever way I can. Someone once told me: ‘We don’t lose, we learn.’ Congratulations to the winners O’Leary and Willoughby.”

Last year, with two incumbents facing no opposition, just 493 ballots were cast. 

In 2020, with three open school board seats and no in-person voting allowed due to pandemic, 1,600 absentee ballots were cast. The vote tally required a seven-and-a-half-hour hand-count that played out over two days. Just over 1,200 residents voted in 2019; while in 2018, 655 votes were cast; in 2017, just over 500 voted; in 2016, 966 voted; 766 voted in 2015; and in 2014, there were 590 ballots cast.

Only once since 2010 — 2013 and 57.4 percent — did under 60 percent of Voorheesville voters approve a school budget. Five times since 2010 — 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018 — between 60 percent and 70 percent of voters approved school budgets, while the remaining spending plans were passed with over 70 percent approval. 

Also on Tuesday, district residents, by an 884-to-214 vote, approved the purchase of three buses and a work truck for $395,000. And, voters, by a 904-to-106 margin, approved creating a new non-voting member of the school board. The position will be filled by a high school student.


Library vote

The Voorheesville Public Library’s $1.22 million budget for 2022-23 was approved by a 893-to-195 vote. 

The library is looking to increase its property-tax take by about 2 percent, from about $1.17 million to approximately $1.2 million. Next year’s proposed budget is up about 2.1 percent over this year’s, with the single-largest increase attributable to contractual services.

Voters did approve the $1.2 million library budget for this year because the spending plan did not increase property taxes. State Education Law says an annual budget vote for libraries isn’t required because, once the spending plan has been approved by residents, it’s “considered an annual appropriation until changed by further vote,” according to the law itself.

The library board will have a new trustee because Janna Shillinglaw was unable to run due to bylaws prohibiting a third term: Linda Conway more than doubled the vote total of her opponent Georgia Gray on Tuesday, 511 to 216.


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