Voorheesville adopts $23M budget with 3.23 percent tax-levy increase

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville Board of Education adopted a $22,562,392 budget last week, 3.17 percent larger than last year’s, which would raise the tax levy in the district by 3.23 percent.

Expenses have increased by about 5 percent, explained Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder. She said the district had to make $316,100 worth of cuts to next year’s programming and staff to account for the lack of state aid and rising costs in the adopted budget.

The tax levy increase of 3.23 percent is below the state-set cap of 3.9 percent, requiring a simple majority vote to pass.

“It has been a fluid process as it is every year,” said board President Timothy Blow. “I suppose the proposed budget today is not as severe as it looked like two or three months ago when we first looked at it.”

Though the budget will cut some full-time positions to part-time and reduce the amount the school will spend on compensation, it does not call for firing anyone. The cuts are to be coordinated with retirements and scheduling fewer work hours for some tasks, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Gregory Diefenbach.

“Nobody has lost a job,” he said.

As at previous meetings the public commented on the proposal during the board’s April 23 meeting, with many asking about the planed elimination of freshman boy’s basketball.

“It’s on the cut list right now,” said Blow. “As things develop over the next couple of months, I’m fairly certain freshman basketball will be restored.”

The board’s decision to cut freshman basketball was partly due to the shrinking pool of competitors as other districts have cut their programs, said Blow.

Coaches and parents speaking at the meeting told board members they could raise the funds needed to pay for the program, estimated to cost the district $4,562 in the coming year. One woman in the crowd said she and other parents could pay for the program themselves. They also claimed the Voorheesville team could play against non-school teams from community organizations and private leagues.

Blow said the athletic director, Joseph Sapienza informed the board that he was “reasonably confident” in getting a season scheduled next year.

Others at the meeting asked about the board’s $37,170 in cuts for substitute teachers. They voiced concern that students could end up being placed in study halls, instead of having a class, because of a lack of available substitutes.

Snyder said the school was trying to restructure how it coordinated the substitutes to do “more with less,” saying, “We need to get creative to solve issues. There’s going to be tight areas all over. I only wish I could tell you it’ll be different in the future.”

The budget also calls for the elimination of a bus route and a new mechanics’ helper, and cuts field-trip expenses in half, saving about $41,000 altogether.

The reductions would remove $7,900 from some student clubs, effectively disbanding them, such as the high school and middle school Art Club, Future Business Leaders of America, Masterminds and Environthon.

Summer curriculum and mentoring would also be cut, saving about $37,000. The district would reduce a custodial job and teacher’s aid position to part-time, saving about $24,000.Officials plan on halving equipment costs to save about $41,000, cutting spending on professional development conferences by $7,000, and lowering stipends to humanity classes for speakers and supplies by about $4,000.

By reducing other workloads and clerical duties across the board, the district is aiming to save another $40,000 in employee costs.

The district will also restructure and limit use of its pool to outside groups and programs, such as swimming lessons, to save $8,489. Another $60,000 was reduced from dental and health costs after the school joined a larger medical consortium, which brokered better savings on providing employee benefits.

“It looks bleak in the future; we’re hoping the effort we’ve made in the last month or so will make a difference in the future,” Blow said at the meeting.

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed an executive budget in January with a statewide bump in education spending of 4.4 percent but Voorheesville instead saw its aid decrease by 5.9 percent.

However, the awarding of a one-time grant last year made it appear the district lost more aid than it actually had.

Diefenbach said the district received a $248,000 grant to transition from half to full day kindergarten last year, and that the 5.9-percent reduction in aid revenue represented a decrease of about $241,495.

“No one else in the county received the extra conversion aid last year, it comes just one time. If our district hadn’t received it, then we would look much more comparable to everyone else,” he said.

Taking the one-time grant out of consideration, Diefenbach said, the district’s aid revenue was less than a percent higher than last year’s.

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The vote on the 2013-2014 budget will be on Tuesday, May 21, with polls opening at Voorheesville Middle School foyer from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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