$27M VCSD budget passes with ease; new library trustee elected

— From Marielle McKasty-Stagg

NEW SCOTLAND — A forgone conclusion was confirmed as such at about 9:40 p.m. on Tuesday night as 75.2 percent of Voorheesville School District voters approved a $27 million budget for the 2021-22 school year. 

Incumbent school board members James Coffin and Robert Samson will return to the board with new four-year terms after facing no opposition.

At the Voorheesville Public Library, Marielle McKasty-Stagg bested Azam Khan by a near 3-t0-1 margin for a five-year trustee term, while the $1.2 million budget for next year wasn’t voted on by residents. 

Just 493 ballots were cast this year; 20 were absentee.

Last year, 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; the Albany County Board of Elections did not share its voting machines with the district because of an impending primary.

The 493 ballots cast this year were one-third the number cast last year, 1,600, which was up a third from the 1,210 people who voted in 2019. While in 2018, 655 votes cast; in 2017, just over 500 voted; in 2016, 966 voted; 766 voted in 2015; and in 2014, there were 590 votes cast.

Over 75 percent of residents voted to approve the $26,954,451 school budget for next year — the final tally was 370 in favor to 122 against.

The $26.95 million spending plan is up about 3.58 percent over this year, and comes with a 2.72-percent increase in the property-tax levy, from about $18.8 million this year to approximately $19.3 million next year.  

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. 

Voters also approved, by a 382-to-111 vote, $261,000 for bus purchases.

Additionally, residents signed off on the district moving $500,000 from an old capital reserve fund to a new one by a 373-to-113 vote. 

At the library, McKasty-Stagg received 307 votes to Khan’s 105; there were eight write-in votes. The seat was vacant because Bryan Richmond, the library board’s president, was limited by the library’s bylaws to no more than two consecutive terms.

Residents did not get to approve the $1.2 million library budget for 2021-22 because it did not increase property taxes for next year. 

Library Director Sarah Clark previously told The Enterprise 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

This will likely be the new normal, Clark said in early May: If there’s no tax increase, the budget won’t be put up for a public vote, but if an increase in the levy is needed, property owners will be asked to increase their taxes.

More New Scotland News

  • Sullivan’s book quotes the Enterprise’s Voorheesville correspondent: “A new fad is taking place in this village. For instance, if a person happens to indulge too much in a certain drink and gets in a comatose condition, some of the ‘smart ones’ applies a mixture of oil and lampblack to their physiognomy.” Sullivan likens this to tarring and feathering on the streets of Voorheesville.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.