Voorheesville schools eyeing $630k gap

District projects $22.75M spending plan, small state aid increase

— Staying within the state-mandated tax cap means the Voorheesville school district will have to cut around $630,000 from next year’s spending plan, and where those reductions are made will be decided in the coming months.

The Voorheesville Board of Education began reviewing the district’s 2014-15 budget projections Monday, Jan. 27, with tentative rollover expenses totaling around $23.4 million. To stay within its property tax levy limit, which is forecasted to increase 1.46 percent, board members would need to reduce the budget to just under $22.8 million. Expenditures are estimated to be increasing around 3.6 percent, or more than $818,000, and $600,000 would be tapped from reserve funds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently proposed tax rebate program also adds more incentive for school districts to not exceed the tax cap, with homeowners refunded any property tax increase if all local government entities do not breach the imposed limits.

District officials said more funds from reserve accounts could be used to reduce the gap to stay within the tax cap limit.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Gregory Diefenbach said the proposed amount weans off fund balance usage, so reserve accounts are not drawn too low in coming years. This school year, the districted budgeted $700,000 of fund balance usage.

School officials, though, said there is mixed message between the governor pushing districts to draw down fund balances and the state comptroller cautioning against draining the accounts.

“There is pressure coming from the Governor’s Office in regards to … pushing school districts to spend as much of their reserve monies as he can get them to do,” board member C. James Coffin said.

Diefenbach and Coffin both said Cuomo is looking for more districts to consolidate.

“Everybody is being pushed … and (Cuomo) is squeezing us out of existence,” Coffin said. “He’s going to bury us in debt in order to get us to make the changes. That is what’s going on.”

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