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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 8, 2012


“Going into tough times”
VCSD proposes $22M budget, cutting 4 jobs

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville School District is working to close a gap of $41,844 in next year’s budget, even after receiving an extra $188,644 in state aid for converting to full-day kindergarten.

Gregory Diefenbach, assistant superintendent for business, proposed a budget of nearly $22 million at a special budget meeting on March 5, an increase of $565,021 over the budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The cuts to close the gap involve staffing and services, said Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder, superintendent. Nearly four jobs — 3.8 full-time equivalents — will be cut, or more, if registration for full-day kindergarten doesn’t reach 70.

The district currently has an enrollment of 1,198 students and employs approximately 230 people.

Of the $21,831,243 budget, nearly 50 percent of expenditures go to staff salaries, and another 25 percent to employee benefits; 7.25 percent goes to Board of Cooperative Educational Services; and the rest goes to supplies, repairs, utilities, computer software, and other miscellaneous items.

Nearly 75 percent of the district’s revenues come from the taxpayers; roughly 20 percent comes from state aid; the rest comes from charges for services, sale of property, and reserve funds.

The budget increase, according to Diefenbach, falls within the tax-levy limit set by the new state law. The eight-step formula for determining the maximum tax levy, after taking exemptions into account, determined the Voorheesville district could increase the tax levy by 2.48 percent.

If the levy were higher than that, the budget would have to pass by a supermajority, or 60 percent, of the public vote rather than a simple majority of 50 percent. Under the new law, if a school budget is defeated, taxes cannot be raised.

For a house within the town of New Scotland assessed at $250,000, that would mean an increase in school taxes of about $100, to $4,052, for the 2012-13 year.

Although 2.48 percent is above the 2-percent levy, it is still within the allowable limits for a majority vote, because of the exemptions.

“Voters need to remember they are voting to approve the budget, not the tax levy,” said Diefenbach during his presentation.

“We’ve hovered around a 60-percent approval rate for our budgets the past several years,” said Snyder, who noted that, in the future, the board may need to exceed the tax-levy limit, but she did not think voters would approve such a budget this year.

“They’ve been hearing ‘2-percent, 2-percent, 2-percent,’ over and over,” said Snyder, adding that she didn’t think there was enough time left before the budget vote to explain to residents that the 2-percent rule isn’t a hard-and-fast one.

Snyder said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of the staffing cuts, because she hadn’t yet spoken to the people who will be losing their jobs.

“I will also have to talk to the least-senior people in each position, in case they are affected,” she said.

At least 70 students need to enroll in full-day kindergarten in order for the school district to receive the aid for converting from its current half-day program. Revenue will be reduced by $2,694.91 per student under the 70-person limit. Fifty-three people have picked up registration packets for kindergarten so far, according to Thomas Reardon, principal of the elementary school.

“There will not be additional hires for full-time kindergarten; we’ll be staffing it internally. But, if we don’t get enough students, we’ll actually have to make more cuts,” said Snyder.

BOCES is also an area that will see cuts, but again, Snyder could not comment on the specifics.

In terms of clubs, Snyder said cuts would be made, and the administration focused on three criteria to determine which clubs to keep — enrollment; involvement in academics; and inclusion of students who might be disenfranchised elsewhere.

Diefenbach listed several of the administration’s resolutions and propositions meant to help keep costs down. He said the district will not spend more than $250,000 on buses, though it is in need of two 60-passenger buses and one Suburban.

The district has a vehicle replacement schedule, and Diefenbach said Voorheesville has made “quite a bit of money” by selling its used buses in the past year.

The district also plans to move $250,000 from the capital reserve fund earmarked for land acquisition, and create a capital reserve fund for future projects.

“We do have some work to do on our buildings, including a new roof due to damage from Tropical Storm Irene,” said Diefenbach.

The district will transfer $250,000 into an unemployment fund.

“We know we’re going to be letting people go; we’re not immune, so we need to be prepared,” Diefenbach said.

In a budget projection through the year 2017, Diefenbach calculated that revenues could go down each year, with reserve funds dropping as well.

“You see our fund balance shrinking, and it’s not unique to us,” Diefenbach concluded. “We’re going into some really tough times with uncharted waters.”

— By Anne Hayden


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