An infusion of state aid restored some of the most contentious cuts slated for Voorheesville school district’s 2014-15 budget, which stays within its state-mandated tax cap.
The Voorheesville Board of Education on Monday, April 21, unanimously adopted a spending plan totaling $22.89 million, which remained essentially unchanged from its March 31 meeting. The property tax levy is increasing 2.04 percent, or almost $328,000, which totals just under $16.44 million. An additional $144,000 of state aid was included in the state budget, with overall state aid totaling nearly $5.15 million.
Board of Education President Timothy Blow said he was “relieved” with the final budget.
“We were able to restore many things that we had never wanted to cut to begin with,” Blow said. “Not to mean that they are not potential cuts for next year. … Until something changes in this formula of out of control expenses … and fixed revenue it is not good for the school district.”
Even with the boost in state aid, Voorheesville is still receiving less than it did during the 2008-09 school year.
The district is holding a mandated budget hearing on Monday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the Large Group Instruction (LGI) room at the middle school. The budget vote will be held on Tuesday, May 20, from 2 to 9 p.m. in the middle school foyer.
Restorations and reductions
The boost in state aid shrunk the district’s budget gap to around $175,000. This allowed the board to restore two of the most contentious cuts, which were the elimination of one section of the fourth grade next school year and the phasing out of French classes.
Some school board members expressed reservations over limiting foreign language options to only Spanish. Part of the push toward phasing out French is declining enrollment in the language.
“Our plan is to continue offering French for the seventh grade next year, but going forward, enrollment is going to play a big part of that,” Blow said on March 31.
Reductions remaining in the budget targeting outside of the classroom include:
- Reducing clerical and aide time — $67,900 in savings
- Eliminating one full-time equivalent (FTE) custodian position — $40,900 in savings
- Reducing the humanities coordinators — $4,650 in savings
Reductions hitting the classroom include:
- Reducing 0.2 FTE speech position — $13,700 in savings
- Reducing 0.2 FTE in English, resulting in four eighth-grade sections — $12,715 in savings
- Eliminating family and consumer sciences offerings at the high school — $19,180 in savings
Other positions restored in the budget include one computer teaching position, 0.5 FTE music teacher position and one elementary school science teaching assistant.
Combined classrooms eyed
School board members at the March 31 meeting also talked about the possibility of having combined classrooms during the 2015-16 school year. A combined classroom would involve two grades of students in one room.
Board member Diana Straut said combined classrooms could be effective if done carefully. She said parent volunteers could also help support a teacher in a combined classroom.
Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said a prior district she worked for that implemented combined classrooms found the “payoff” was in the second year. Students did not lose any time learning new rituals in the blended classroom and stayed with the same teacher for two years, she said.
Voorheesville Teacher Association President Kathy Fiero expressed concern over the proposal to create multi-age classrooms without prior conversation with staff members.
Board member Kristine Gravino said the proposal is not planned for next school year, but as a future option.
“In the future, things are going to get worse in terms of budget cuts, and our enrollment is declining and it has been over the years,” Gravino said.