COVID-related hires at Voorheesville, but budget still OK, super says

Frank Macri

— From YouTube

Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri said that the district had made about five COVID-related hires this summer but, thanks to a combination of resignations and unfilled positions, the budget hit shouldn’t be too bad. 

NEW SCOTLAND — Resignations and allowing positions to go unfilled have permitted the Voorheesville Central School District to make about five COVID-related hires this summer while keeping the district’s budget in check at a time when the state is withholding aid to school districts.

Superintendent Frank Macri told The Enterprise that Voorheesville has hired teaching aids, who are paid $14 per hour, or assistants, who make almost $16 per hour.

The additional staff will be used to supervise students in socially-distanced classrooms. The district is also still looking to hire a licensed practical nurse, Macri said.

Asked about the effect the pandemic would have on the district’s budget, Macri said, “We’re not looking at a huge hit” because Voorheesville had budgeted for a part-time social worker-guidance counselor position for this year that went unfilled as well as another job in the district that wasn’t filled.

There are also funds associated with a teacher position that is budgeted for “just in case you need it,” Macri said, adding, “You always have one out there because you never know if you need another grade level or if something else comes up.”  

While some districts have had 20-percent of their state aid withheld, Macri said that Voorheesville has not because Foundation Aid has yet to be dispersed.

If the district were to get hit with a 20-percent cut to Foundation Aid, Macri said, it would be a $720,000 loss. And while Voorheesville has an unappropriated fund balance that it could use to cover the loss, he said, it’s not enough to cover the entire $720,000.

About 25 percent of Voorheesville’s $26 million budget is state-funded, Macri said. Of the approximately $6.6 million in state aid the district is due in the upcoming school year, about $3.6 million is Foundation Aid, according to the State Education Department.

If there were a 20-percent cut to total state aid, which he doesn’t believe there will be, Macri said the district would lose $1.3 million in state funding.

Macri said that he “always has to worry” about making cuts, because of the drop in state aid.

While the Voorheesville personnel budget appears to be pretty well covered so far for next year, the district is taking a hit on supplies.

Macri said that’s where Voorheesville is finding it has to transfer funds from elsewhere in order to be able to continue to purchase the things it needs for the upcoming school year — thousands of masks, all the different disinfectants, “it adds up,” he said.

The supplies were allocated into the cleaning budget, he said. 

At the end of July, Voorheesville had already spent between 55 and 60 percent of its 2020-21 cleaning budget. “And we’re usually not there at this point and we’re just getting started,” Macri said in July. It would cost the district approximately $250,000 for personal protective equipment like masks for staff and students, he said. 

Macri said fund balances will likely have to be tapped for the cleaning budget.

 

In-person and online

During a special meeting of the board of education on Monday, there was discussion of how to allow public interaction at future board meetings. 

The next regularly-scheduled school board meeting will be held on Sept. 14, and members will meet in-person at the school’s performing arts center while the public will be able to view the meeting via live-stream on YouTube.

The discussion was brought around to broadcasting the meeting over Webex so that the public would be allowed to ask questions in real-time, because current meetings take place over Google Meet and are then streamed via YouTube, and anyone with questions for the board must submit those questions to the district clerk by 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Both Guilderland and Berne-Knox-Westerlo use somewhat similar set-ups. 

The decision was made to use the boards’ upcoming policy committee meeting, which will be broadcast via Webex, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, as a dry run to see how the public-interaction portion of the meeting would work. 

There will then be a discussion about the set-up of future meetings at the Sept. 14 school board meeting. 

 

Wood fills in

In other business, the school board approved the appointment of Bryan Wood as interim high school principal for Laura Schmitz who is on medical leave until Dec. 4.

More New Scotland News

  • The four Democrats who all held leads on their four Republican or GOP-backed challengers on Nov. 2 continued to do so after Nov. 17, when the absentee ballot counts were released by the Albany County Board of Elections. 

  • On Election Night, three of the four incumbent New Scotland Democrats facing Republican challengers were still facing uncertain futures as a number of absentee ballots had yet to be counted. But the Democrats breathed a collective sigh of relief on Nov. 17 after the release of the absentee-ballot counts. However, the recanvass results recently released by the Albany County Board of Elections should give Democrats pause as they show that Republicans — there are six for every 10 Democrats in town — are becoming more competitive.

  • During a recent public hearing on the village’s proposed local law that would have Voorheesville opt out of both retail sales of marijuana and on-site consumption, the board of trustees heard very little in the way of agreement for its proposal. 

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