VCSD hit with state education aid cut   

Superintendent Frank Macri

Superintendent Frank Macri

NEW SCOTLAND — The Voorheesville Central School District is already starting to feel the effects of the state’s 20-percent reduction in education aid.

A recent general state-aid payment was about $47,000 light, Superintendent Frank Macri told The Enterprise. 

During the Sept. 14 school board meeting, Macri said the 20-percent cut would apply to all state aid. He had previously told The Enterprise he thought only Foundation Aid would be subject to the 20-percent reduction.

About 25 percent of Voorheesville’s $26 million budget is state-funded, approximately $6.6 million. A 20-percent drop in state aid translates to a $1.3 million loss in funding.

During the Sept. 14 board meeting, Macri said the 20-percent cut in state aid was before any ratios like a wealth ratio — Voorheesville is a well-off school district with a high wealth ratio, while there are other districts with lower wealth ratios that are getting slammed because they are receiving less state aid.

And what could happen is the state, to offset losses to poorer districts and increase the aid ratio, could take even more money from the wealthier districts, Macri said. 

“And then the conversation we are going to be having won’t be a $1.3 million conversation, it could be more than that,” he said. “I think we just have to put it all on the table and be very honest, and I think we have to evaluate this monthly of where we stand, and what’s happening, and what we can do about this — this is the first conversation, I know it’s the first of many and it will change, I think, on a weekly basis at this point.”

During the meeting Monday, Macri told school board members that an additional 1.4 percent of unappropriated fund balance, about $360,000, had been carried over with this year’s budget and can be used to help fill this year’s gap.

In addition, he also recommended that the board not fund several reserve funds, if it gets to that point. If the district didn’t pay into its reserve funds for capital projects, teacher and non-teacher retirements, and tax certiorari cases, Voorheesville would be able to offset a $1.3 million deficit.

Macri told The Enterprise on Wednesday that Voorheesville is not at the point where cuts have to be made, because the district is looking at the state-funding issue on a month-by-month basis. State payments come periodically throughout the year, he said — so there’s always the slim chance that the 20-percent cut could go away or federal money comes in — but he didn’t know exactly when those payments were made.

“In the end, you don’t know what the full outcome is going to be; you don’t know if that’s going to last for the full year — there’s just a lot of uncertainty here,” he said.

 

October surprise

The school board came to a general agreement about allowing the public to attend its next meeting, currently set for Oct. 5. While there was also discussion about allowing for some kind of virtual public interaction using an online platform like Webex, but those details still had to be worked out.

“At this point the school is open, so we should give it a try,” board member Argi O’Leary said about holding meetings in-person. 

Board member Timothy Kremer said the performing arts center could accommodate the public, there was enough room to allow for social distancing — as such, he’d like to see the board’s October meeting open to the public.

Board President Cynthia Monaghan said one suggestion had been to limit the number of people allowed into the meeting and to do it through an online reservation system.

Board member Robert Samson said one issue with in-person meetings would be screening people coming into the meeting and ensuring they’ve filled out whatever form the district has deemed necessary. 

Macri said online reservations would make it easy to know who is coming to the meeting because the person could be checked off as performing the attestation as they entered the performing arts center. And then the district could also have a laptop set up for attestations for those who haven’t attested in advance. 

Samson also said there are also cleaning and sanitation protocols that have to be thought about, and he wanted to make sure that an undue burden wasn’t being placed on the district should the board choose to allow public in-person meetings. 

And Samson also said there are equity issues with allowing only a certain number of attendees into the meeting at once. Who decides who gets to come to the meeting, he said, using the example of an elderly taxpayer who may show up late to a meeting and is not let in.

Board member Tricia Putman asked if Webex removed some of the equity issue because the online meeting software allowed for real-time interaction between the public and board members.

By offering attendees the option of either attending in-person or online via Webex, there’s also a chance of relieving social distancing issues, it was said.

The board decided it would come up with a proper plan and put it out to the public before its October meeting.

 

Softening water

In other business, the school board:

— Approved an up-to-$40,000 repair reserve resolution for the purchase and installation of water softeners at each of the school campuses. 

The softeners “condition” the area’s hard water to give Voorheesville’s brand-new mechanical equipment, its boilers and hot-water heaters and the system in general, a longer life. 

 

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