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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 17, 2008

State restores aid
VCSD approves $22M plan

By David S. Lewis

VOORHEESVILLE – The school board unanimously here unanimously adopted a $22 million spending plan last Monday, two days before the state budget was finalized, restoring BOCES aid to the schools.

The board did not rely on the restoration of state aid for the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.  The budget, which goes to public vote on May 20, is up from last year by 2.8 percent, or $589,000. 

The tax levy increase will be 1.12 percent, or about $160,000.  The tax-rate increase is estimated to be 3.92 percent, nearly half the projected increase had the BOCES aid not been restored.

Former governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan would have reduced BOCES aid statewide by $31 million dollars, and shifted aid from wealthy districts, decreasing revenues by $236,000.  BOCES programs cost the district around $510,000 per year, mostly in the form of special-education programs, but also vo-tech and internship programs, as well as the Tech Valley High School program. 

Superintendent Linda Langevin said that the restored BOCES money would not affect the appropriations budget.

“The appropriations and the revenue are two different budgets.  The amount we’ll appropriate for expenditures will remain the same.

“We are expecting poor economic times next year,” she said.  She pointed out the wisdom of keeping a surplus in the coffers, and said that, by New York State law, the district is able to maintain up to four percent fund balance against future contingencies.  The district’s current fund balance is 3 percent, as set by the school board.

Board members also expressed a desire to remain fiscally conservative; and some were wary of the budget as propositioned, especially in light of the potentially instable state budget.

 “It’s far more money than they probably have…too much borrowing and one-shot gimmicks, and they may find that they will have to make some mid-year course adjustments,” said board member Kevin T. Kroencke of the state’s budget earlier this week.  “Given the fact that they have talked openly about mid-year adjustments, I am going to operate under the premise that it’s more likely than not.

 “We did the best job we could with the constraints that we had, and I feel the money we spent was spent in the best way we could,” he said of the board’s work on the spending plan.  “The money spent will serve the district and the students in the best manner,” he said, adding that most of the $589,000 increase will go to salary raises for teachers and staff, as required by control.

“Seventy-two to 73 percent of the school budget you don’t have any control over; I mean that it’s set already through contractual obligations to teachers.  Those agreements are usually ratified every three years, so the one we just did, is for the next three years,” he said, referencing the agreement between the Voorheesville Teachers Association and the district earlier this spring, by which teachers shall  receive raises every year for the next three years.

Kroencke explained that the only additional full-time staff expense was the hiring of a curriculum coordinator.  As one of the business teachers will be part-time next year, the additional expense to the district will be half of one full-time staff-person.

Board member Timothy Blow expressed views on the spending plan. 

“The only thing that might be inadequate is the cost of fuel; other than that, I think we have more than enough budgeted,” said Blow on Monday.  “I wish we had been able to cut a little more out of it.”

 “Just because we have extra money doesn’t mean we have to spend it,” he said of the restored BOCES aid, echoing Langevin’s conservative posture.

Bus driver’s child to stay at VCSD

The board unanimously voted to allow Lauren Tracey’s child to remain enrolled in the district.  Tracey, who lives in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District, works as a school bus driver for Voorheesville four hours per day.  She told The Enterprise that she took the job so that her children could go to school at Voorheesville.

Voorheesville policy allows for the children of full-time employees to attend school for 10 percent of the state-set rate, so parents pay hundreds rather than thousands of dollars for tuition.

Three groups of students are allowed to attend schools in a district in which they do not live: children of full-time employees, students whose families have moved from the district but wish to finish out their junior or senior years at Voorheesville, and students whose parents are moving into the district. 

Voorheesville has 19 non-resident students enrolled; all of them except Tracey’s fifth-grader are the children of teachers who work in the district, said Langevin.  Tracey’s other child, who will enter kindergarten next year, will also be allowed to attend, Langevin said.

Tracey’s child will be “grandfathered in,” but this will be an exception, and not a rule, according to Kroencke.  He called the wording of the policy “vague.”

“It used to say ‘full-time’ and was changed to ‘six hours per day,’” said Kroencke.  “Full time for a bus driver is four hours, so they were eligible under that provision.”  He went on to say that in the future, an employee must work six hours per day in order to enroll children in the district.

Business Builders host trade show

By David S. Lewis

NEW SCOTLAND – The New Scotland Business Builders will host a trade show at the Voorheesville Public Library on April 26.  Businesses and business owners from all over New Scotland will be participating, giving demonstrations and handing out food samples, holding give-away contests, and building rapport between business owners and the community they serve. 

The Business Builders group was formed in October by Janna Schillinglaw, a New Scotland Realtor who said she was tired of feeling “disconnected” from other business owners in town.  She says the trade show will be the Builders’ premiere public event.

“I wanted to get to know my business neighbors,” said Schillinglaw.  “It’s an opportunity for business people to get out of the workplace and re-introduce themselves to the community that they serve.”

She said that, as New Scotland will likely see some kind of development in the next decade, it was that much more important to promote solidarity between business owners.

“Local business is critical to the future of our town, and we should be supporting the people who have businesses here, who live and work here,” she said.  “I wanted to create a group that could respond to a changing community and guide the kind of development coming into the town.” 

The trade show will run from noon to 4 p.m. and will feature over a dozen of the area’s businesses and community organizations, including the Albany County Rural Housing Alliance, Gio’s Culinary Studio, Morgan’s Toffee, and the local Kiwanis chapter.  The show will be held both indoors and out, rain or shine.  Schillinglaw said children are invited to the event as well; there will be a Bouncy Bounce.

“This is not just for networking,” said Schillinglaw.  “We hope the community comes out to support their businesses.”

Proceeds from the event will benefit the library and several local charities.  The event is free and open to the public.  Schillinglaw said there is still a limited amount of space open for any businesses that are considering last-minute participation.

“We’re here to stay, and we will continue to grow,” she said of her organization.  “We encourage any business in town to contact us and join our efforts.”

Clarksville turns 175, celebrates rich history

By David S. Lewis

CLARKSVILLE – Clarksville turned 175 years old on Wednesday, and residents of the New Scotland hamlet celebrated with the Clarksville Historical Society, which hosted a birthday party in the Clarksville Community Church. 

The Clarksville area was first settled in the early 1700s by trappers and adventurers traveling West from the Hudson Bay.  The hamlet, formerly known as Bethlehem P.O., was the first post office in New Scotland.  New Scotland was part of Bethlehem at the time, which caused confusion with the Postal Service, so the name was changed to Clarksville in honor of Adam Abel Clark in 1833.  At the time, Clark was an innkeeper and served as the village postmaster, and had been a drummer in the War of 1812. 

“Clark was a very lucky man,” said historian Joe Hogan, president of the Clarksville Historical Society.  “He wasn’t born here, and he isn’t buried here, but the place is named after him.  He was really just in the right place at the right time.”

Hogan, who has been researching Clarksville history for years, founded the society in 2004 with seven other residents of the hamlet.  The society has devoted much of its time to raising money for historical markers, and boasts the first double-sided marker in the state.

Hogan says he hopes to move the organization into the Woodside School soon, using the basement for archival storage and the main building as a museum. 

The society hopes to restore the schoolhouse to its original condition.  The Woodside School, a one-room schoolhouse Hogan says dates back to the 1860s, was a summer home for a period of time but is now a charge of the Department of Transportation after its relocation made way for the realignment of Route 32.  Although construction has not yet begun for the road, the school was moved in 2004 and placed on top of a basement, which cost the DOT $200,000 in 2004.  Although the basement would not have been part of the original design, Hogan says it would be an ideal location for the society’s archival storage.  Hogan says that the artifacts collected by the Society are being stored with various members because they have no permanent home.  The school has several broken windows, but the DOT will not permit anyone to fix them or work on the building in any way, because it is a historic building.

“I’ve told them before, if they let it go, it will fall before anyone can get anything out of it,” said Hogan as he gazed at the structure, its red and white paint curled away from the weathered gray boards underneath.

V’ville minds making Odyssey to worlds

By David S. Lewis

VOORHEESVILLE – This year’s Odyssey of the Mind team qualified for the World Finals, where it will compete against countries such as Germany, Hong Kong, China, and Great Britain. 

Dr. C. Samuel Micklus of Rowan University began the competition in 1978.  It is a contest that is judged not on the basis of correct answers but rather the creativity of the solution.  Participants range from kindergarten students to college seniors.

Upon learning they had qualified for the competition, which will be held at the University of Maryland, the students and their coach, Jean Mackay, had to solve another problem creatively, and quickly; the cost of the trip was to be around $481 per person, not including transportation to and from the event.  The total cost of the trip would be around $6,000.

  When The Enterprise met up with the team at the Voorheesville Elementary School’s science fair on April 3, the team was conducting a bake sale to raise funds.

Jean Mackay, the teams coach and mother of one of the participants, was optimistic.

“It’s $6,000; it’s huge and if we don’t raise enough, we won’t be able to go.  The PTA hasn’t been able to offer anything, and the registration money is due by May 1.”  In spite of all this, she said she fully expected the funds to be raised, although there were less than three weeks in which to do so. 

Many of the donated baked goods had come from parents who didn’t even have children on the team, she said.  “Everyone has come out to support this,” said Mackay.  “It’s amazing, really.”

The bake sale raised over $900, making it the most successful they had ever had.  Mackay said the generosity of the residents surprised the students on the team.  Several cookies were purchased for $10 apiece; one brownie was paid for with a $200 check.  Mackay said the team was very grateful for the generosity of the Voorheesville community.

“Not only did our team really get to do an exceptional amount of work this year, but as a result of this part of it, they learned a great deal about community and generosity,” said Mackay.  “That will leave a lasting impression.”

Last week, the Voorheesville Community and School Foundation gave the team a $1,250 grant and offered a matching grant for the same amount.  With the proceeds from the bake sale and $250 donated from Jimco Painting, the team was able to meet the maximum matching grant.  The Voorheesville school board also made a grant of $2,500 from a special state fund for extra-curricular activities.

Mackay said with the grants they were able to raise more than what was needed, and so will have some left over for next year’s Odyssey of the Mind program.

The team and Mackay have been brainstorming ways to thank the community for the support it has shown them in their endeavor, and so plans to host an art show on May 20.  All elementary students are invited to submit community-themed works of art.  Mackay said she hopes that it will foster the students’ appreciation for their community.

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