Federal funds may buoy Hudson school budget

HUDSON—Instructional expenses and classroom capacity received attention at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting and the preceding budget workshop March 16.

Business Administrator Jesse Boehme announced that the latest federal stimulus package will give New York an estimated $9 billion for education. That is more than Governor Cuomo initially budgeted for. Still uncertain is whether the state will combine several separate categories of school aid into one category, “service aid.” If that happens, Mr. Boehme said, “we’ll be at the mercy of the state.” Meanwhile, universal prekindergarten will be funded from federal sources instead of state aid.

In presenting the 2021-22 budget’s preliminary instuctional expenses, Mr. Boehme showed cost increases for technology and special education but little cost change for “regular school” teaching and supervision.

The instructional technology expense is estimated to increase by over $450,000 more than 45% over the 2020-21 budgeted amount of $933.500. A lot of computer equipment needs updating or replacing, Mr. Boehme explained. This includes 1,300 Chromebooks “at the end of their lives.”

Other expense fluctuations were attributed to the number and status of employees. Spending for Regular School Teaching would stay about the same, because enough teachers are retiring to offset the increased salaries of the teachers who remain.

Regular School Supervision spending would also remain about the same, because of the decision not to hire a new associate principal for the junior high. That post has been vacant since November 2019. The budget line for Programs for Students with Disabilities will increase by over $400,000 to about $8.2 million from $7.7 million because of increased contractual salaries, Mr. Boehme said.

This explanation carried over to other expense fluctuations. The proposed decrease in the Psychological Services by about 6% is attributed to replacing a retiring psychologist.

During the regular meeting, district Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier observed how social distancing requirements decrease the efficiency of space utilization. For one thing, the buildings are not big enough to seat all their students six feet apart.

(On March 19, three days after this meeting, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new school guidance, advising that students in classrooms could be seated no less than three feet apart).

Also at the meeting:

• The board and Dr. Suttmeier congratulated Elizabeth Massarone, a music teacher at the elementary school, upon receiving tenure effective May 2

• The board and Dr. Suttmeier wished Custodian David Hodges well on his retirement, planned for June 30, after 35 years of service

• Dr. Suttmeier announced that three school board seats will be up for election in May: two incumbents’ terms are expiring, and an additional person is needed to fill an unfinished term. The number of petition signatures needed for a position on the ballot has been reduced to 50 from 100

• Dr. Suttmeier announced that school resource officers will start wearing body cameras as part of the Columbia County and Hudson City police reform. But in the schools, the cameras will be activated only when troubles arise

• Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement Dr. April Prestipino spoke about which Assessment, Regents, and AP tests could be canceled and which could take place

• Dr. Suttmeier told the board, “A year ago this week, we were launched into outer space. We’ve never been through this stress before. It was difficult for you to be a governing body with such uncertainty. But we survived. I commend everyone.”

The next meeting of the Hudson City School District Board of Education will take place Tuesday, April 6, beginning with a budget workshop at 6 p.m. followed by a regular meeting.

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