HUDSON-The Hudson School District has opted to go to mediation after failing to reach agreement on a contract with teachers.
"We are at an impasse with the Hudson Teacher's Association," said Superintendent Jack Howe said at the March 12 school board meeting.
Attorney Stuart Waxman, who represents the board in its labor negotiations, said in a letter signed by the whole board that the HTA has refused the board's plea for zero salary increases and an increase in individual contributions toward healthcare. Teachers now pay 10% of their own healthcare costs.
The letter was released as a letter the editor in response to published comments attributed to Jack Beyer, the union bargaining unit president, that appeared in the Register Star newspaper in Hudson.
The complete letter appears in this edition of The Columbia Paper.
Expected cuts in state aid and the end of the federal stimulus program, combined with the new 2% cap on property tax levy increases has put districts around the state in a bind.
Board member Peter Meyer reintroduced his idea to involve teachers and staff in budget decisions, and this year his colleagues seemed more amenable.
"Ask them how to cut 10%,” Mr. Meyer said at the meeting.
Board member Jeri Chapman said she liked the idea of giving staff a say in what cuts to make.
New York's 2% tax increase cap is not exactly what it sounds like, according to John McKinney, the district's interim business manager. At the meeting he walked the board through the process of how the district will eventually arrive at this year's tax levy and tax rate, an eight-step equation that takes into account tax base growth, rate of inflation, the previous year's tax levy, and current and future payments in lieu of taxes. Pension costs above 2% don't have to be included in the computation, nor do some court orders and judgments and some increases in capital expenses.
According to the formula, the proposed tax levy could be 2.78% higher than last year's. If the community forces the school district into a contingency budget this year, according to a change in state law, that would mean zero per cent increase. In the past, contingency budgets were allowed to go up by a percentage no more than the rise in the cost of living.
"A defeated budget would really hurt the children of Hudson. It would mean serious cuts in services to students," said Mr. McKinney.
He was selected by the board after the unexpected death of Business Manager Daniel Barrett and will serve until the board finds a permanent replacement. At the meeting the board considered and seemed open to the possibility of sharing the position with another school district to cut costs. If the district decides to hire its own business or financial manager the salary would range from $55,000 to $90,000, depending on the candidate's experience.
The district faces a $1.2 million deficit and is looking at the maximum number of students per class and other worst-case scenarios.
Good things are happening too: through a collaboration with Catholic Charities and other community groups the district received a Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood (GHPN) Planning Grant worth over $400,000, one of only 15 districts across the country to receive the grant. The money will be used to develop a network of resources to help children succeed, from cradle to career.
The district also received $22,400 in state aid thanks to help from Senator Steve Saland (R-41st) to upgrade the front door at M.C. Smith Intermediate School.
The state Open Meetings Law now requires that school districts post all documents before the board on its website, allowing the public see the packet of material each board member receives before each meeting. In the March 12 packet (go to www.hudsoncityschooldistrict.com/boe/) one can find a disciplinary report that covers so many different kinds of information that Peter Meyer suggested forming an advisory committee to analyze the information and coordinate it with the updating of the school's code of conduct. He was appointed to head the new committee and is looking for volunteers from the community and the school to serve with him. Fellow board member Jeri Chapman volunteered to help.
During the Public Forum part of the meeting, parent Michael Moore announced that he is working to start up a new chapter of the NAACP and would welcome new members from any background. Mr. Moore can be reached at 646 796-8212.