Hudson keeps tax growth below state levy cap

HUDSON–The Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education, at its meeting April 9, approved a budget proposal to set before voters on May 15. The proposal calls for spending $48,769,728 and raising the tax levy by 3.25%.

If approved by voters, school officials say it will allow the district to continue all existing programs, expand some of them, explore new programs, keep a reserve fund for unforeseen expenses, and provide a strategic base for future budgets.

Concern about future budgets was a major concern in determining that the tax levy increase. Though lower than the 3.85% allowed under the state cap on property tax increases, it would still be higher than necessary to maintain current programs. “Please remember that where we leave off this year is where we start next year,” said district Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon. This would be the second consecutive year of the tax levy increase falling short of the cap, and this happening every year “is not sustainable. If we go too low this year, we might have to ask for a huge tax increase next year,” she said.

“We are fiscally healthy now,” said district Superintendent Maria L Suttmeier. But the higher the base is this year, the higher it will be in future years, no matter how low the district’s tax increase cap might be then. “We don’t want to decide what to cut,” Dr. Suttmeier said.

Ms. Carbon told the meeting that “there are variables we can’t control” and do not know about in advance, such as the cost of health insurance premiums.

Dr. Suttmeier mentioned that the Capital Project was designed assuming revenue from Questar III BOCES renting part of the High School building; but Questar did not renew its lease. On the other hand, she said, “we didn’t pay a cent for” the solar farm behind the high school, “but we’re reaping the benefits,” with projections that the school will save 60% on its electric bill.

Budget                                             Tax Levy

2018-19 Proposal  $48,769,728      $23,140,218

2017-18 Budget    $46,566,172       $22,411,833

Difference $ 2,203,556                     $728,385

% Change      4.73                                  3.25

Under the education plan that goes with the budget proposal, the District will:

• Hire a second school resource officer. For the 2018-19 school year each police officer will be able to spend all day on one campus rather than dividing time between the two current district campuses.

• Have either two associate principals or one associate principal and one dean of students in the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School (MCS), which will happen when primary school grades join the current intermediate school

• Expand Camp Invention, a one-week summer camp on school grounds where children make technology-featured creations. This summer it has room for 40 children going into 3rd through 5th grade, but Dr. Suttmeier envisioned it next summer holding 80 children going into kindergarten through 6th grade. Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino reported that already parents from other districts have asked to enroll their children in Camp Invention this summer, and she has had to tell them to wait to see how many spaces are filled by HCSD students. Camp Invention will run July 9 through 13, at MCS, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., breakfast and lunch included. The cost per HCSD student is $130

• Increase the number of 6th grade sections from five to six and prepare for a seventh kindergarten section, to keep class sizes down

• Have a math coach for 3rd through 5th grades

• Keep in place programs that helped get the district out of the state’s focus designation and now may be keeping it out of focus, despite the ending of special improvement funds for troubled schools

• Support social emotional development of students and staff

• Support Vision 2020 and Destination Graduation to Occupation goals. “There’s a purpose for going into college, the military, or a job,” Dr. Suttmeier said. “Each step leads to the next.”

Also at the meeting:

• Dr. Suttmeier announced that Carrie Otty, president of the school board, received recognition for Excellence in School Board Service, from CASDA, the Center for School Improvement at the University at Albany’s School of Education. “Thank-you for your leadership,” Dr. Suttmeier told her

• The superintendent said that preparations for additional home team bleachers are proceeding.

The next HCSD Board of Education meeting will take place April 17, at 6:30 p.m., in the Hudson High School library. It will take place on Tuesday, instead of the usual Monday.

These students like their school

STUDENTS RECEIVED PRAISE at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting April 9. “There are more student leaders now than ever before,” said the student representative to the board Noah Taylor.

School board member Lucinda Segar suggested using students to promote the district.

“Hudson is doing great things, and the kids are doing great things,” Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier said.

Noah added that Columbia Greene Community College has invited 17 Hudson High School seniors to a celebration of excellence for students who have maintained an average of 85 or higher on college courses they are taking in high school. These students are: Siddique Ahmed, Sharmin Akhter, Maya Alverez, Kacey Crast, Kierstin Colloton, Ummeh Era, Karissa Garbarini, Maison Goldstein, Matthew Haigh, Khadija Khan, Sifath Khan, Nadia Miah, Annalise Tampasis, Noah Taylor, Tayjul Tonmoy, Brianna Tsitsera, and Isabelle Waldron.

In addition, Noah announced that the Rotary Club’s Students of the Month are Jacob McDonald and Byonte Jones.

Dr. Suttmeier commended the high school students who spoke for two hours on radio earlier this month. “They talked about the district with such pride!” she said. “They talked about how much they loved the district: for not only its academics but also its diversity. Muslim students, Christian students, students of all races.”

Dr. Suttmeier noted that the district’s reputation has improved.–Jeanette Wolfberg

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