The Bethlehem, Guilderland and Voorheesville school districts don’t anticipate layoffs or hiring freezes for now but have pushed their 2020-2021 school budget votes to at least June 1, per Gov. Cuomo’s executive order last month.
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Although each school district began drafting their respective 2020-2021 budget proposals earlier this year and district voters were originally scheduled to vote on them in late May, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the districts to wait for further guidance from the state, postpone the budgets’ adoption and contemplate how state aid may be impacted.
Spotlight News reached out to the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk school district but did not receive comment at this time.
Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Jody Monroe wrote in an email that despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, “Our goal is to remain focused on the core mission of the district, to serve the needs of our students and families, and to be a good employer for the 800+ people who serve our families.”
She added that the district has plans to fill vacant positions from retirements and add new hires as part of its upcoming 2020-2021 budget, “assuming there are no drastic reductions in state aid.” She continued, “While we are anticipating a downturn in the economy, we are focused on limiting expenditures for essential items only, and preserving resources to help absorb potential aid reductions.”
Speaking of aid, Bethlehem received $28.4 million in state aid as part of its $100.8 million 2019-2020 budget and as of April 10, is projected to receive $29.1 million in state aid in its upcoming 2020-2021 budget. As COVID-19 evolves, Monroe wrote that it “is premature to speculate on impacts” or possible state aid reductions now.
She, however, expressed gratitude for the district’s staff for transitioning into remote instruction to continue supporting students. “They have risen above the stress and anxiety created by this worldwide pandemic, and maintained their focus on meeting the needs of our school community,” she wrote. “As superintendent, I could not be prouder of their efforts.”
Guilderland Central School District Superintendent Marie Wiles said she is unsure how district voters will vote on the 2020-2021 budget. “I’ve heard theories about what could happen but at this point, we’re kind of in limbo and trying to anticipate what it might look if it’s in-person voting or done by absentee ballots which we know how to do,” she said.
She said that there are a few staff positions that the district needs to fill for the upcoming school year “but we haven’t begun those searches yet.” She added that before the pandemic worsened in the Capital District, “a small handful” of staff indicated their plans to retire after the current school year. However, it is unclear if all their to-be-vacant positions will be refilled.
“We require employees to let us know by February 1 if they intend to retire in the coming school year and anytime a position opens up, we always ask if we need to refill it,” Wiles said. “Our staffing numbers can shift time to time due to the number of students and what the needs are in at the building level.”
Guilderland received $25.8 million in state aid for its $102.1 million 2019-2020 budget and as of April 9, is expected to get $25 million for 2020-2021. She noted that the latter number also went down from how the district initially projected in early March to get $25.3 million in state aid for the coming year.
Wiles encouraged residents to anonymously pose questions or leave comments about the upcoming 2020-2021 school budget via Thoughtexchange, an online forum, until April 24. “It’s hard to engage people because they can’t come to a podium or speak to a microphone nowadays to say what’s on their minds,” Wiles said. “So, I hope people participate on ThoughtExchange and we value your input.”
For more information, visit www.guilderlandschools.org/get-in-on-the-conversation-about-the-2020-21-school-budget.
Voorheesville Central School District Superintendent Frank Macri said, “While we don’t have any layoffs or a hiring freeze at this time, we’re definitely trying to be fiscally sound and we’ve frozen out spending for the rest of the year to the best of our ability.”
He added that the district originally planned to hire some new staff for the 2020-2021 year but “I think it’s too early to know what’s happening now. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Regardless of how the 2020-2021 budget turns out, he said the district would “be getting a small increment in state aid as we’re not fully funded by state aid. It won’t have a giant impact on us as compared to other school districts that rely more on it.”
Francis Rielly, the district’s assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said Voorheesville received $6.5 million in state aid as part of its $25.4 million 2019-2020 budget. As of April 9, it is projected to get a slight increase of around $37,000 in state aid for its 2020-2021 budget.
Despite the uncertainty accompanied by COVID-19, Macri thanked the district’s staff as well as essential and healthcare workers “for all their hard work during this challenging time. As a community, we’re stronger working together one day at a time.”