Voorheesville Central School District’s proposed $22.7 million was handily approved on Tuesday, May 20, along with both propositions.
There were 590 ballots cast for Voorheesville’s proposed 2014-15 budget holding a 2.04 percent property tax levy increase, with 414 votes (70.2 percent) in favor and 176 votes (29.8 percent) opposed, according to unofficial results. Spending next school year will increase around $151,000, or 0.67 percent, compared to this school year. The budget taps $600,000 from the district fund balance.
Superintendent of Schools Teresa Thayer Snyder said she was “relieved” after hearing the budget and both propositions passed.
“It has been a tough year,” Snyder said. “This particular year, I felt like we got our feet on the ground and went into this knowing a little bit more about the tax cap. … Everybody pitched in, and I think it puts us in a very optimistic position for the future.”
Board of Education President Timothy Blow echoed Snyder’s remarks and was happy the budget passed.
“I think it’s reflective of the community’s understanding it was a … reasonable budget under the circumstances we are facing in today’s economic environment,” Blow said. “I think they were appreciative of the process the board went through to solicit input, evaluate alternatives and decide what was important.”
Throughout the budget process, Blow stressed presenting a budget cognizant of what the community could financially support, while trying maintain programming.
“I know a lot of senior citizens, and several of them spoke to me that they support the school and everything, but enough is enough,” he said. “They want to live here, too. They don’t want to be forced to move because they can’t afford to live here.”
Snyder credited Sarita Winchell, interim assistant superintendent for business, for “restructuring” the district’s “concept of revenues and expenses.”
Winchell had worked at the district for 37 years, retiring in 2011, but returned on a part-time basis following the departure of Gregory Diefenbach in February. Diefenbach left the district to work for the State Education Department.
Voter turnout significantly declined this year compared to the prior budget vote, with about 200 fewer ballots cast.
“I was worried today’s nice weather would keep people away with so many things to do outside,” Snyder said. “It’s a small number. We usually run around 800.”
She said she was pleased, though, at the margin of victory this year.
Last year’s budget vote was more closely decided with 459 for and 341 against. That budget had a higher property tax levy increase at 3.23 percent compared to the 2014-15 budget, which edges just over 2 percent.
Blow said he expects the coming year’s budget process to be difficult as well, with similar cuts presented.
“I think we will have the same challenges and pressure next year on being able to maintain programs,” he said.
He said increasing healthcare and benefits costs, along with the state-mandated tax cap, “makes it difficult to do anything.”
Benefit expenses have increased about $2 million since the 2008-09 budget to the 2014-15 budget, according to Blow, which is nearly equal to how much the property tax levy increase has risen during that time. The largest benefits cost is retirement.
“All the increases in taxes over the last few years have been to fund the increases in benefits,” Blow said.
Propositions, school board results
The district’s proposition to purchase a 72-passenger bus, a wheelchair bus and a one-ton truck for $220,000 was approved by a similar margin as the budget, with 410 in favor and 180 opposed. State aid would cover about 50 percent of the cost, according to the district.
Snyder said approving the bus purchases was important so the district could maintain its purchasing schedule and keep costs steady over the years. A new truck was also long overdue.
“Our old truck has pretty much out-lived its life,” Snyder said. “It’s been a good truck.”
Voters also approved the proposition to allocate $99,800 from the district’s repair reserve to replace the fire doors and one exterior door at the middle and high school facility. There were 424 votes in support and 163 against it.
Tapping repair reserve funds only required voter approval to generate state aid, which would cover almost two-thirds of expense, according to the district.
Incumbent Board of Education candidates Kristine Gravino and Cynthia Monaghan were re-elected in an uncontested race for another four-year term. Both have served on the board since 2010.
Library budget approved
Voters passed Voorheesville Public Library’s $1.15 million 2014-15 budget by a closer margin than the school district’s budget, with 364 votes for and 227 against. Unlike most budgets this season, the library decreased spending around $13,000, or 1.11 percent.
The library’s budget holds a property tax levy decrease of 0.97 percent, or almost $11,000, and totals $1.11 million.
“We continue to look for opportunities to connect with the community outside the library building and innovative ways to provide residents with information,” Library Board of Trustees President Robert Kent and Director Gail Alter Sacco said in a joint message before the vote. “We recognize the need to be more dynamic in our response to the continuing changes in our district and in the broader environment in which public libraries operate.”
The budget increased capital projects funding $12,000, totaling $42,000, for repairs to the roof, gutters and lighting. The greatest savings was attained through not allocating any money to its capital reserve, with the prior budget allocating $40,000.