FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS the Hudson City School District along with all public schools in upstate New York has received less state aid each year. Consequently, the District has had record breaking layoffs of teachers and staff as well as cuts in programs.
If New York State continues to cut state aid to public schools, the district will be forced to make deeper cuts over the next several years. We cannot depend on our local taxpayers to offset the budget deficit each year. There will come a time when we are no longer able to function with the basic academic integrity needed to provide a well-rounded education to our students. The district has been working diligently on doing the right work to improve the academic and financial status of the district, but there is just so far we can go on the resources we receive from the state.
Here are some budget facts to consider:
•The state aid budget proposal presented by the state and adopted by the Board of Education for the 2012-13 school year was $19,790,325. The actual state aid revenues projected to be received by the District is $19,154,663, a $635,662 or 3.21% shortfall.
•The state aid budget proposal presented by the governor on January 22 for the 2013-14 school year is $19,575,613, a budget-to-budget decrease of $214,712 or 1.085%.
•Compared to the district’s projected actual revenues of $19,154,663 in 2012-13, the proposed 2013-14 budget amount of $19,575,613 means a $420,950 increase or 2.198%.
•Ultimately, this means that the district is already starting off the 2013-14 budget season with a year-to-year state aid revenue gap of $214,712 or 1.085%.
Additionally, pension costs continue to rise rapidly. For the 2013-14 school year alone, the rate the district is responsible to contribute is projected to increase from 11.84% to 16.5% for the Teachers’ Retirement System and from 18.5% to 20.5% for the Employees’ Retirement System. The only control the district has on these rising costs is to reduce the number of employees or use fund balance. Using fund balance is much like using a personal savings account. Without a plan to replenish the account, once the resources are exhausted, you run out of options. The state recommends having 4% of the total district budget as unassigned fund balance. For the year ended June 30, 2012, 4% would mean a fund balance of $1,645,967. The actual fund balance for the Hudson City School District was $540,367 or 1.31%.
The East Greenbush School District recently hosted an advocacy event entitled Your Public Schools in Fiscal Peril: Running out of Time and Options. The event was led by Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium. Dr. Timbs highlighted the looming educational crisis in the Capital Region. The event was a grassroots effort to help school districts across the Capital Region let New York’s legislators know the impact they are having by continuing to underfund education to upstate schools. Many stakeholders from the Hudson City School District answered our call to join us in advocating for a better future for our students. I want to express our sincere appreciation to Superintendent Dr. Angela Nagel of East Greenbush for hosting this event and to all of the administrators, teachers, staff, Board of Education members, students, business leaders, and parents who came out to support Hudson’s youth.
As follow up to this advocacy event, district stakeholders from across the region will be asked to take the next step and mobilize by the hundreds (perhaps thousands) by advocating for change with the elected leaders serving their communities. To help them in that process, the Niskayuna Central School District hosted a second forum February 11, to teach effective advocacy strategies and techniques. Robert N. Lowry, Jr, Deputy Director for Advocacy Research & Communications for the NYS Council of School Superintendents (NYSCSS) led this event.
The Board of Education has put together its official development calendar for the 2013-14 school year, which will lead up to the annual May 21 budget vote by district residents. This calendar includes a “Community Conversation” on February 20 in the John L. Edwards Primary School Café from 6 – 8 p.m. Come voice your perspectives and support the education of our students.
Furthermore, as part of our continued efforts to involve our community in the budget development process, the district is offering a survey where residents can provide suggestions and give guidance about what information they need to better understand the 2013-14 budget.
We want to hear from our community to help us make decisions and better communicate the challenges we face. We want to hear from all stakeholders so that we can develop a budget that reflects the values of our community as best is possible.
The survey will be available on the district website, www.hudsoncityschooldistrict.com through March 8. If residents do not have Internet access, they can pick up a paper version of the survey at any school’s main office or by calling the district office at 518 828-4360 ext. 2100.
Maria Suttmeier is superintendent of the Hudson City School District.