Last minute state aid boost saves programs, adds teachers
HUDSON–Superintendent Maria Suttmeier of the Hudson City School District presented a $45–million budget proposal for the 2014-15 school year to the Board of Education April 7. Voters will decide whether to approve the budget on May 20.
The May 20 vote will also include a referendum on whether to approve the sale of the Greenport School and an election to fill three open seats on the board.
The proposed budget for the school year that begins in July envisions continuing all of the district’s existing programs and offerings, including kindergarten, AP (advanced placement) classes, high school electives and extra-curricular activities, moving some special education students from off-site BOCES facilities to district school buildings, and hiring new teachers.
It calls for spending $45,268,912, up 4.27% ($1,852,610) from the current 2013-14 budget. It anticipates property tax revenue of $21,100,471, up 2.17% ($448, 022) from the current year.
“I have the pleasure of presenting to the board a budget with improvements,” said Suttmeier. “This is a good year for us.”
Her satisfaction April 7 contrasted with the mood only two weeks earlier, before the state had adopted its annual budget, at a community budget conversation. Then, she and district Business Executive Robert Yusko worried that even with no increase in discretionary spending, district expenditures would exceed anticipated revenues by $1.5 million. “We were hard pressed to find what …to cut,” Ms. Suttmeier recalled.
But the state budget adopted by the legislature and signed into law by the governor March 31 included an increase in aid to all school districts, and Hudson will receive $1.2 million more in school aid than anticipated.
In addition to the added funds, which the superintendent credited to area state legislators and the district’s own lobbying efforts Ms. Suttmeier said the district will save about $280,000 by moving several special education students from BOCES facilities back to the district.
The district will also amortize an employee retirement system obligation for $222,000, though Ms. Suttmeier acknowledged that Yusko did not like doing this.
And there will be savings from operating the Bridge Academy only half a year.
Sale of the Greenport School is expected to net the district about $350,000. Mr. Yusko reported a recent conversation with the buyers, who plan to turn the school into apartments. They are negotiating with the state Department of Transportation. Voter approval of the sale on May 20 is only one of the points that need to be resolved before the closing.
The district will hire:
•Staff for the returning special education students
•Assistant principals for the high school, junior high, and intermediate schools
•A social worker for intermediate school guidance
•An elementary school teacher for 3rd grade. Ms. Suttmeier said it is especially important to limit class size in 3rd grade because those pupils are in a new building and taking standardized tests.
She said a district priority is to “maintain focus on Destination Graduation goals.” Non-mandated offerings are “programs we never want to do without,” extra-curricular activities are “things that kids can excel in” and are the only incentive some students have for coming to and staying in school she added.
“We’re adding positions, but not all the positions we would like to add,” said Ms. Suttmeier. “We aren’t adding positions now in order to cut them next year.”
“This is a thoughtful budget,” said board member Jeri Chapman, reacting to the presentation. “A lot of thought went into it.”
This year the board proposes raising property tax revenues by the maximum amount allowed under the state tax levy cap. This will the district a higher base to start from in coming years, when the maximum percent increase is expected to drop.
The board, with 6 of its 7 members present, voted unanimously to place both the proposed budget and the pending Greenport School building sale on the May 20 ballot..
Also at the April 7 meeting the board:
•Heard that a deputy sheriff will be stationed part-time at district schools starting Monday, April 21. The first assignment for the school resource officer (SRO) will be to help with parking at John L Edwards Primary School. Hudson City Schools are to have SROs 20 hours a week this year and full-time starting in September
•Approved a policy giving building administrators the option of holding recess outside if the temperature stays above 20 degrees F. Board Vice President Tiffany Hamilton noted that letting children “move” during recess–even if it is inside–is still on the table and will be handled separately
•Heard Ms. Suttmeier announce that the Bridge Academy now has 45 students: 23 in the Alternate Transition Program from Hudson, 6 in special education from Hudson, and the rest from Catskill. On April 3, local business people met Bridge students. Ms. Suttmeier said “students were glowing”
•Heard Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino say summer programs for students and teachers are in preparation
•Learned that high school language classes are taking trips to Spain and Italy.
The next Board meeting will be on a Tuesday, April 22, at the High School Library at 7 p.m.