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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 3, 2007

Voorheesville Library proposes $928K budget

By Rachel Dutil

VOORHEESVILLE –The Voorheesville Public Library trustees unanimously approved a $928,280 budget proposal, which will go to public vote on May 15. It includes, for the first of five years, $30,000 in debt service to pay off a $150,000 land debt.

The budget proposal increases spending 5.5 percent over this year, including the debt service. The increase in library operations costs is 1.8 percent.

If the budget passes, New Scotland residents will pay an estimated $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed value.

"I was trying to be economical where I could be economical," said the library’s Director, Gail Sacco, of the budget proposal. The library board asked that Sacco "hold down our operating costs as much as possible," she said.

"I felt we could spend less this year," she said.

No petitions were turned in for candidates for the library’s five-member board. A trustee will be appointed by the current board and serve until next year’s election, Sacco said.

Dick Ramsey, the president of the library board, said he doesn’t understand why no one is running this year. "Sometimes people think they have a lot less time than they do," he said.

"I’m hoping it’s because they’re happy with the library," Sacco said of the lack of interested candidates. She pointed out that three candidates are running for one school board seat. "There’s interest in the community," she said.


In addition to the new debt-service cost, the budget increases only in a few areas.

Funding for special programs has increased from $4,000 this year to $6,600 – that figure is only half of what the library actually spends, Sacco said. The Friends of the Library match that amount "dollar for dollar," she said.

"The Friends of the Library are very helpful" They provide a lot of support to us," Sacoo said.

Programs include activities like the Summer Reading Club, book discussion groups, visiting authors, and a concert series. The library increases "quality and quantity every year," Sacco said of special programs.

We the People Bookshelf is a new program that will explore the pursuit of happiness and the Constitution. It will be a series of "dramatic programs" about what the pursuit of happiness means in this country, Sacco said. "I’m really excited about it," she added.

A new focus in recent years has been programs for senior citizens, Sacco said, citing the learning for out-of-school adults program as an example. The results have been "very gratifying," she said of the increase in seniors using the library.

The cost of salaries and benefits for library employees will increase from $634,200 to $647,200. This includes a 3-percent cost-of-living increase for all 21 employees, but, Sacco said, "no merit increases."

Last year, the community approved the hiring of additional staff, and the costs were covered by a retirement, Sacco said. Without the retirement this year, she said, the figure increased in the budget proposal.

Salaries are middle of the local range, she said, adding that all of the librarians have master’s degrees.

"We try as much as possible to hire locally," Sacco told The Enterprise. "The money we get through taxes goes back to the community through services, and also through the people we hire."

The library produced about 350 programs and was open for 63 hours a week, Sacco said of the past year.

Health insurance, she said, is "unpredictable." It is a cost "we don’t have control over," Sacco said; it as "a quandary for everybody." Benefits costs will increase $3,600 to $130,000 in the new budget.

The cost of library materials will increase from $84,100 to $86,100.

The book budget did not increase this year, Sacco said; it makes up $1,800 of the $2,000 increase for next year, budgeted at $61,800. "We needed to increase the number of titles we purchase," she said, adding that the books bought are based on what people read, and what books are requested.

"Books on compact disk are the highest area of demand," she said. The budget for audiovisual materials has been raised from $13,600 to $14,300. "The community is really interested in listening as well as reading," said Sacco.

"There is a tendency for electronic everything – more CDs, more DVDs, more audio books," Ramsey added.

"We happen to be at a point where we’re pretty current," Sacco said of the library’s software programs; those costs will decrease from $1,500 to $1,000.

Expenses for supplies will increase by $1,000 to $13,000. Besides increases resulting from added delivery charges due to higher fuel costs, Ramsey said that the library has made a concerted effort toward recognizing local history. Archival supplies such as acid-free paper and folders are necessary for preservation, Sacco said.

"One of the biggest problems in the U.S. today is a lack of history understanding," Ramsey told The Enterprise.

Sacco said she hopes to be able to run another literary-based field trip, similar to a trip to the Saratoga battlefield, which accompanied readings about the Revolutionary War. The trips "provide richness and depth," she said, adding how successful and popular the Saratoga trip was.


Local taxes will bring in $879,816 of the $928,280 total budget. State aid will pay for $5,464, which is the same figure as this year. "We are guaranteed at least as much as last year," Sacco said of the state aid.

Revenues from desk receipts – overdue fines, copier fees, and fees associated with lost books – will bring in $21,000. Interest will pay $9,000.

Donations and grants increased from $2,000 to $3,000, and the appropriated fund balance will pay $10,000 again this year.

The estimated tax rate for residents of the district living in New Scotland is $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed value; $1.26 for residents of Guilderland; and $1.52 for residents of Berne. The public library territory follows the same boundary lines as the Voorheesville School District.

Future plans

In September, district residents voted in favor of a $150,000 land acquisition for the overcrowded library. It acquired 5.6 acres of land adjacent to the 1.5-acre existing site on School Road.

For every new book that comes in, an older book that doesn’t get circulated much needs to be removed, Ramsey told The Enterprise earlier of the cramped quarters at the library.

Of the $150,000, approved by voters, $100,000 was designated for the purchase of the land, and $50,000 for planning how to use the land.

Sacco told The Enterprise earlier that the planning funds would be used to seek professional expertise, such as architectural designs for future building plans, and part would be used for "community conversations."

The library wants to find out what "the community really wants," Ramsey said last week. The library board is developing a survey to garner community input for the project, he said. The board hopes to be able to "translate" the feedback into "something more concrete" by the fall, Sacco said.

The quest, she said, is to find out how patrons use their time in the library, and how they might use the library in the future. "We need to find out not just what they would like us to do now, but what they hope to see in the future," she added.

The board has been working along with a planning committee, chaired by James Reilly, on the plans for expansion, Ramsey explained

Some of the planning money has been allocated for preliminary work to the land itself, Sacco said. A topological survey and other mapping needed to be paid for up front, Ramsey said.

The closing on the land deal came in late December, Sacco said. "It took a surprisingly long time," she said. It was a deal involving the land owners who were selling the parcel, the school board, and the library board, she explained. "We were trying to serve all the different areas of the community," she said.

Between June of 2005 and June of 2006, Sacco said, the library had 70,000 visits; circulated 115,900 items; and answered about 6,600 reference questions.

"I like the numbers, but I think the numbers can always get better," Sacco said, adding that the library website had 24,000 users in that time period.

"When the economy is troubled, people will come to the library more frequently," Ramsey said. Nearly every time he goes into the library, 80 or 90 percent of the computers are being used, he said.

"I think this board is really working very hard to patrol the budget and at the same time uphold the quality," Sacco said.

"We try to continue on and expand the services and keep costs reasonable," Ramsey said. "We don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face," he said, adding that the board would love to see the library become "the community center for the district."

Patients to pay in Voorheesville"

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Charging patients for ambulance rides, which was recently voted down by volunteer members of the ambulance squad, is under consideration again.

The major reason that the ambulance squad decided against a revenue recovery plan the last time it came up, in 2005, was because it’s a volunteer squad and charging people for their services didn’t seem right, said Lawrence Pakenas, captain of the ambulance squad. Members of the squad were also concerned about charging people who don’t have insurance and might have trouble paying, he said.

Following a meeting between the village and the ambulance squad at the end of 2006, the squad was to look into the possibility of billing patients for ambulance service. Pakenas expects that members will reach a decision at their May 22 meeting.

"I see it becoming more and more prevalent," said Pakenas of revenue recovery systems in neighboring ambulance squads. Generally, he said, those that have a system charge a flat rate of about $300 or $400 per trip in addition to a mileage charge, which is usually between $10 and $20 per mile. Patients would only be billed if they are transported by the ambulance, he said. Of the roughly 400 calls his squad answers every year, Pakenas guessed that about 200 people would be billed for services.

It’s the village’s obligation to explore different sources of revenue that might ease the tax burden on residents, Mayor Robert Conway said. That’s why he encouraged the ambulance squad to look into it, he said. He doesn’t want a village resident to ask if the board has looked into billing for ambulance service and answer no, he said. "It’s a dollars-and-cents question," he added.

The Voorheesville Area Ambulance was allotted $41,000 in the budget just adopted for the 2007-08 fiscal year and $16,000 for the ambulance’s Length of Service Award Program, so the village’s total expense for the rescue squad is $57,000. In a letter from Conway to Pakenas dated April 12, he wrote, "Please be advised that the village will be reducing the 2006-2007 budgeted amount of $41,000 for the Voorheesville Area Ambulance by 20% for the 2007-2008 budget cycle." The village had expected to hear more details about revenue recovery from the ambulance squad in early 2007, he said, before it began putting together the budget.

"I’ve got to be honest; I felt like I was being put off," Conway said to officers of the squad who came to the village’s board meeting last week. The officers showed up at the meeting because of the letter.

"We were offended by this letter," Pakenas told the board. "If you feel that we haven’t moved fast enough, I apologize."

The village might reduce the ambulance’s budget by 20 percent in next year’s budget, Conway said this week. "What we’re basically looking for is a dialogue with the ambulance squad," he said.

Conway asked the officers at the board meeting last Tuesday if he could address the roughly 30 volunteer members of the ambulance squad at their next meeting. His offer was answered with a lukewarm response; Pakenas said that he’d get back to him.

"I wanted to make sure it would productive, not destructive," Pakenas said this week, "given the high level of emotion that was generated by the letter he sent."

"I know it’s a contentious issue. I know it’s an emotionally-charged issue," Conway said at the meeting. But, he added, "We have a responsibility to the taxpayers."

"It makes sense for all agencies to take a look at this," Pakenas said of revenue recovery this week, but the most important thing to weigh is patient care. "We have to think about all sides of the issue," he said.

Other business

In other business, the village board:

— Voted unanimously to adopt the village budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year;

— Voted unanimously to appoint Jim Creed as the basketball director for the village’s recreation program and Cathy Creed as the craft director;

— Voted unanimously to adopt water usage charges that will take effect on June 1;

— Heard from Will Smith, of the public works department, that he received a response to a letter he wrote at the request of the village board to the state’s Department of Transportation, asking that the speed limit on Route 85A from the village line to Crow Ridge Road and Route 156 from Koontz Road into Depot Road be lowered.

The posted speed limit in both areas is 40 miles per hour, he said, and the letter from the DOT said that those limits are reasonable. In looking into the village’s request, Smith reported the letter said, the DOT conducted radar tests and found constant speeding; it has asked the State Police and the Albany County Sheriff’s Department for stepped-up patrols in those areas; and

— Heard from Conway that he attended a conference in Corning, N.Y., on walkable communities. He said that Voorheesville already has most of the things that were promoted for more walkable communities.

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