It remains to be seen how deeply $440,000 worth of cuts will affect the Voorheesville Central School District, as administrators consider how to stay within a tax cap of a 3.87 percent increase.
The district won’t be getting any respite from the state either, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo increasing state aid to schools by 4.4 percent. Voorheesville is projected to see a 4 percent decrease in aid, a total aid package of $4.9 million. During the last three years the state’s gap elimination adjustment has reduced aid to the district by $2.87 million. Declining enrollment is another issue, with Voorheesville shedding 56 students during the last five years and facing another projected decline next school year.
The projections were offered at a Wednesday, March 6, meeting of the school board. If the district presented a budget at its tax cap, the 2013-14 budget would total $22.6 million, a $720,000 increase. Homeowners with a property assessed at $250,000 could expect taxes to increase by $194 in the Town of New Scotland (4.83 percent), $270 in Guilderland (5.75 percent) and around $350 in Berne homeowners.
Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said most Berne homeowners fall below an assessment of $250,000, so the tax increase wouldn’t be as large.
“This year, in all the years I have been in the business (20 years), I have never such a more difficult with the budget,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Gregory Diefenbach said. “This is a budget that is fluid … the state hasn’t passed a budget yet so school districts are working again in the dark.”
Diefenbach started off by calling on district residents to contact local state legislators to explain how reduced state aid alongside the tax cap is hurting the district.
“We got to tell them that public education is in dire straits,” Diefenbach said.
Potential cuts are being targeted for staffing, professional development, supplies, equipment and athletics, but the district didn’t offer any specifics.
Possible reductions were expected to be presented during the Board of Education’s Monday, March 11, meeting. Additional cuts are expected to be presented at its Monday, March 25, meeting. Adoption of the 2013-14 Budget is scheduled for April 8.
District officials are also weighing whether to join into the governor’s proposed flat-rate employee contribution plan, at 12.5 percent for 25 years. The state Teachers’ Retirement System first needs to approve the measure though and school officials don’t expect it to be done before adopting next year’s budget.
If the district went with the proposal, its tax cap next year would be reduced to 2.58 percent.
“Like any state thing that has happened over the years, some things are half baked and then it comes out and is given to us and it is not even figured out,” Diefenbach said.
Diefenbach, along with other school officials, appeared hesitant to jump into the 25-year commitment, but resident Tricia Putnam urged the board to go for the reduced rate. The district currently has a contribution rate at 16.25 percent and would save around $300,00 under the proposal.
“I think I would be more apt to go for it,” Putnam said.
Snyder said the district is totally opposed to it, but is “suspicious” of it.
District officials are also proposing to present voters with two referendums alongside the budget in May, the first for purchasing two 60-passenger buses at $214,000 and another to transfer up to $250,000 from unallocated fund balances to the repair reserve.