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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 20, 2006


At Voorheesville two vie for one spot

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — On May 16 school district residents will be voting on a $20 million budget, two propositions, and electing one candidate out of two for a spot on the school board.

The district predicts a tax levy increase of 3.3 percent, adjusted down because of increased state aid.

Voters will also decide on a $190,000 high-school roofing project and on a $224,300 proposition to buy three buses.

School board President Joseph Pofit, after eight years on the board, is running for another five-year term. He is being challenged by Gary Hubert, who frequently attends board meetings.

Hubert and his wife, Portia, have lived in Salem Hills for 28 years; they have two children who have graduated from Voorheesville. He had worked at the Schenectady Association for Retarded Citizens for 15-and-a-half years, and now works for Brigar Inc., a direct-marketing company where he works with high-speed digital images and the printing of them. So, Hubert said, he has experience in both human services and computer technology.

Pofit and his wife, Martha, live on New Scotland Road next to the commercial corridor. He has daughters who attend Voorheesville. He works for Catholic Charities developing senior housing, assisted living, and nursing homes; he deals with the planning and financing of these programs for 14 counties.

Hubert is interested in being hands-on in curriculum review and development in the upcoming year, to ensure an emphasis on curriculum for all students’ varying academic needs.

He is also campaigning on having "more effective communication with the public," Hubert said.

Pofit is excited about the upcoming curriculum development too, which is one of the reasons he favored hiring Superintendent Linda Langevin, because this is one of her strengths, he said. Pofit said he has an interest in building an academic program that transitions easily from each year to the next. Fortunately the district has the best teachers possible, Pofit said, and there is already inter-communication between the grades.

Pofit also has the goal of "bringing everybody on the board up to a level of comfort with the numbers," he said of the district’s budget and financial management.

Adjusted tax levy

The state legislature passed a budget with more school aid than the governors proposal.

At the time the school board approved the Voorheesville budget, a few weeks ago, most board members said if the district received extra aid they wanted to return dollars back to the taxpayers.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Sarita Winchell said this week, compared to this year, Voorheesville is getting $187,700 more in aid. State aid for the 2006-07 budget will be $5,590,000.

The tax levy increase will be 3.29 percent, Winchell said, rather than the 3.67 percent as previously reported, because the amount of money to be raised through local taxs has decreased.

The total budget is a 4-percent increase over this year’s, which the administration and school bard members have called "bare bones" and "conservative."

If voters defeat the budget, Langevin said the district will go to a contingency with a cap set at 4 percent by the state.

The proposed budget is $20,098,500 and the contingency cap would be at $20,098,889 — only about $400 more. However, with a contingency-cap budget, some items are not allowed to be included, such as technology and new equipment.

The school would have to declare what equipment is educationally necessary and lose the rest, Winchell said. So passing the budget is extremely important, she said. The school district does not get to use more money with a contingency, Winchell said. When the items classified as educationally unnecessary are removed from the proposed budget, then those dollars will then also removed from the total budget, she said.

Propositions

In the fall, contracted engineers introduced to the board a $4 million to $5 million construction plan for repairs, upgrades, and maintenance to both the elementary school and high school. The bulk of the project $3 million to $4 million, is for the elementary school.

Replacing all the unit ventilators at the elementary school to improve air quality, air circulation and heating is projected to cost $1 million. Other tasks include the removal of floor tiles, and solving underground water leaks.

The engineers recommended tackling a number of repairs this summer — re-constructing the high-school tennis courts, replacing some of the flooring at the elementary school, and replacing roofing at the high school.

The school board has chosen only to move forward on the roofing project, putting up a $190,000 proposition to replace sections of the roof.

By voter approval last May, $500,000 was set aside in a capital reserve fund. For this roofing project, the plan is to use surplus funds from the general fund balance and, if needed pay the balance out of the capital reserve fund.

There will be no new money collected from the taxpayers for this project, Winchell said.

Also, State aid will return 64 percent of the project cost, leaving the local share at $68,400, Winchell said. She told The Enterprise she believes most of that money can be paid from the fund balance.

Winchell does not anticipate creating another capital reserve fund for a while because in order to do that there has to be extra money, and next year’s budget, "is extremely tight," she said.

The rest of the building projects proposed by the engineers for phase one have been postponed, Winchell said.

The roof has to be done because of timing, Winchell said. The work has to be done in the spring and summer before fall.

"There are several places in the high-school building where the roof is severely leaking," said school board member Richard Brackett, who is on the building and grounds sub-committee. It would cost $70,000 to repair it and that would only last one year. That would be like "trying to put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound," he said.

"Spending $190,000 to replace the roof comes with a 20-year warranty," he said. The current roof warranty ran out four years ago, he said.

Board member David Gibson recommends, for the future, that the board keep a strict record and monitor the time line of all warranties, to make sure any repairs that fall under a warranty be completed while still covered.

Board member James Coffin, who is also on the building committee, said the leaking in the roof is not in a single area but scattered. Water has gotten in under the roof and seeped into the insulation, he said. There is 12,000 square feet of roofing and, with moisture problems, water flow can’t be identified, Coffin said.

"Replacement is the key with a nice warranty," Coffin said.

It’s damage- control time, now, he said, to avoid further damage, and the correct time to do roofing is in the summer, he said.

Voters will also decide on a bus proposition. The school is on a long-term plan of buying buses in increments.

This year, the district wants to purchase two 60-passenger buses, and one 19-passenger wheelchair accessible bus. The district currently does not have a bus to accommodate children in wheelchairs, but now has an elementary-school student with this need. The proposition states that the district will buy these buses, spending a maximum of $224,300.


Kent unopposed for library trustee

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — A father of two, who has a passion for biographies is running in an uncontested election for trustee of the Voorheesville Public Library.

Robert Kent was appointed trustee two years ago; he replaced Margaret Adkins who resigned in 2004 after being elected New Scotland town judge. Kent is now running in his first election, for a five-year term. There are five seats on the board.

With a 10- and six- year old, Kent said, "My wife and I use the library all the time — it’s a real asset in the community."

The family borrows books regularly; his kids pick out children’s books. Luckily, he said, they like to read, and he also enjoys reading to them. On occasion, his children also borrow video games from the library, but mostly they borrow books, he said.

The next book Kent wants to read is local author Paul Grondahl’s biography on Teddy Roosevelt, Presidential Passage: How Theodore Roosevelt Rode the Lessons of Albany Politics to the White House.

"I’ve always been interested in politics"the people involved"not so much what happened, but what got them there, the process," Kent said of this genre.

Kent has lived in the Voorheesville School District for 12 years in the town of Guilderland at the Weatherfield development.

In his next five years on the board, Kent said, he wants to move forward with a building expansion. The construction project is a big thing, he said, and trying to maintain a reasonable budget at the same time. With the proposed $881,000 budget for 2006-07 fiscal year, Kent said he sees the increases as a reflection of the cost of everything that increases each year.

He wants to meet the demands of the computer age.

"I’m old-fashioned," he said. "There’s something in me that still likes to hold something in front of me," he said of reading and gathering information from paper rather than off a screen.

But computers at the library are an important resource, he said. The residents of Voorheesville come from "both extremes of the economic spectrum," he said, and the library is non-threatening place in the community for people to come to access the Internet.

Kent has been serving as the library board’s treasurer. He said he works with the "great staff" to monitor the public library funds. He reviews the finances monthly and signs checks so bills and employees are paid, he said.


$880,880 library budget proposal does not include building update

By Holly Grosch

VOORHEESVILLE — For the third year in a row, the Voorheesville Public Library remains in the planning stage of a building expansion. The $880,880 budget proposed for next year does not incorporate any funding for major construction.

The 7-percent increase in the budget from this year is spread out over a couple of line items.

The building-repair fund, for example, is increasing from $4,000 to $6,300, which will pay for work on the cement walkway by the main entrance; a hole is now marked by hazard cones.

Insurance costs for the building have increased from $6,600 to $8,530 because the building is now legally owned by the public library rather than the school district, which used to insure the building. Voters approved last May allowing the school district to transfer ownership.

Building maintenance has increased by about $2,500, bringing that fund up to $26,000. Maintenance includes custodial work and snowplowing. Most of the increase is due to increased energy cost, library Director Gail Sacco said.

Employees salaries and benefits are increasing from $589,370 to $634,200 which accounts for a 3-percent annual increase across the board for every employee but also includes the expansion of the work force due to the increased services offered.

Taxes

Local property taxes will pay for $834,416 of the $880,880 total budget. State aid is $5,464, up about $1,000 from this year.

The estimated local tax-rate increase is 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For residents living in New Scotland, the tax rate is estimated to be $1.66 per $1,000; Guilderland, $1.22; and in Berne $1.53. The public library service territory follows the same boundary lines as the school district.

The 7-percent budget increase is reasonable "with the needs we have," library board member Robert Parmenter told The Enterprise. It allows the library to keep up with purchasing new literature and also offer technology, he said.

A trend

The library will spend $60,000 on books in the upcoming year, about $2,000 less than last year, but material funding evens out because $2,000 more is budgeted for audio-visual materials, at a total expense of $13,600.

"There’s a trend I’m not happy with," Parmenter said, "People aren’t reading books as much as they used to." At the same time, though, more books are being sold than ever before, he said. Audio books are becoming a very popular alternative at the library, Parmenter said.

Significantly fewer books are being taken out, library board President Richard Ramsey also said, but there has been an increase in demand at Voorheesville for books on tape, music CD’s and movie DVD’s. They are particularly attractive to younger people, Ramsey said. CD’s take up less space on shelves than books do, in terms of over all building space. Also, Ramsey said the inter-library loan system through the Upper Hudson Library System is being used more.

The library is an invaluable resource to local students for research, Parmenter said.

Sacco said the library has a goal of reaching out more to both teens and senior citizens.

Sacco said she wants to work with the town of New Scotland senior-outreach program to reach those who don’t have the mobility to come into the library.

The Voorheesville library is already offering book delivery to elderly residents at no charge, but fewer than five people are using that service, Sacco said.

She wants to attend the senior-services meetings and go to senior events at the Wyman Osterhout Community Center to reach this aging population.

The ideas are to expand service to the elderly by getting more books out to them, and also by being a resource for them at the reference desk over the phone, Sacco said. She also envisions, e-mail training for seniors; more and more seniors are interested in learning how to communicate on computers with their families.

More programs

One half-time librarian is being promoted to full-time this fiscal year, Sacco said, to allow other librarians more time to develop the very popular programs. The library in 2005-06 offered 10 percent more programs than the year before and attendance to programs increased by 8 percent, Sacco said.

Librarian Suzanne Fisher this year arranged a field trip to the Saratoga battlefield accompanied by readings about the Revolutionary War, book-discussion groups, and instruction by a university professor. President Ramsey said that program filled up extremely fast, so the library wants to offer more. It also received rave reviews, Sacco said. The field-trip program was made possible through a grant from the Council for the Humanities, Sacco said.

Another grant the library received was to bring in music, Ramsey said. And another program was a writing workshop with an accomplished mystery author from Vermont. By getting more staff, the library creates more opportunity for time-intensive grant-writing, Ramsey and Sacco both stated.

Because of the new technology, Sacco said, she wants to add one new full support staff member as well. The libraries computer-inventory system is now more complicated and extensive and the new employee will keep continuity in the database, she said.

Building plans

An engineering firm has just completed and handed in to the library board a report assessing the building’s present condition, analyzing its structure and ranking pressing versus more long term concerns. In the 2005-06 budget, $24,500 was reserved for contractual expenses; $8,000 of that was used for planning the building project, to pay for this engineering analysis and for legal assistance in land acquisition.

Ramsey, told The Enterprise this week that negotiations for the purchase of the neighboring property have reached a "stalemate." The board has made a few offers, but they were rejected, he said.

It is not possible to build upward, based on the engineer’s review, Ramsey said. Also, building a second floor would require the library to shut down during the construction, something the board wouldn’t want to do.

In the upcoming year, Sacco said, she and the board want to get the space for the expansion "pinned down."

Another goal is to complete some designs so that the public can see what the building may look like, Sacco said.

This year, two forums on the expansion were held to gather community input — one forum was attended by residents and the other meeting was for all the staff, Sacco said. The agenda was to talk about what people would like to see in the facility, and what their service needs are.

Some repeating desires expressed were to create community spaces, where community meetings could be held, for more cozy places for reading for both adults and children, and for quiet, undisturbed research areas, Sacco reported.

Sacco applied to the State Archives for a local history repository, a secure room with a controlled environment, where patrons can review documents.

The grant, announced in June, would fund the cost for planning the repository.

The community likes the library’s small-town feel, Sacco said. With various housing developments proposed in the district, people emphasized that they would like the expanded library to still feel like a small-town center.

It’s important to maintain the support base that exists at the library, Sacco said. It’s a service to the community that the staff answer the telephones during the day, she said, rather than only being available or even open a few hours a day.

Repairs

While groundbreaking on an expansion still seems distant, the library board is going to have to start making some choices in the near future on costly repairs to the existing building.

The 18-year-old library building was built for under $1 million to limit cost at that time, Ramsey told The Enterprise this week. There are now some problems, he said.

The community thought the wonderful new building constructed in 1988 would last a long time, Parmenter said, continuing, "That long time is practically up."

The most urgent repair is replacing the gutters and rubber roof, Sacco said, referencing the engineer’s report. A roof replacement would cost $150,000 .

Ramsey said he has just received the engineer’s report and, at the next trustees’ meeting, the board members will review the document together.

A first glance, it looks like the engineers are recommending the repairs be made in two or three steps, Ramsey said. The rubber roofing is original, making it almost 20 years old, with a warranty that ran out after the first 10 years, Ramsey said, which is the first need.

Another problem with the building is that the heating and ventilation system put in at construction was middle-of-the-line, in terms of cost and technology then, he said. The side of the building facing the sun can be extremely warm with the other side very cold, he said.

While nothing has been decided yet, Ramsey said he anticipates a large cost such as roof replacement would either be voted on by the public in mid-year or incorporated into the 2007-08 budget.

The library budget has "always had good support from the community," Parmenter said.


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