Hudson hears lowdown on slightly bigger budget

HUDSON—Buses, budgets, taxes, and a summer sports camp received attention at the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting March 15.

Bus aide Leticia Perry received a plaque for keeping everybody on her bus safe when a crisis arose.  One March morning in Claverack, the driver of the school bus she was on suffered a diabetic emergency.  Ms. Perry guided the driver to park at the side of the road, called 911 to get him medical attention, called her bus company, and cared for the children until a replacement bus came to take them to school. They got to school only about half an hour late.

Addressing a more typical agenda item, Jesse Boehme, district business administrator, presented factors driving the 2022-23 budget proposal, which faces voters May 17, and he explained the district’s anticipated spending.

Instruction expenses will increase, Mr. Boehme said, because of contract obligations, special education, and additional professional positions. Administration and Support expenses will also increase because of contract obligations, an obligatory building condition survey, and higher costs for utilities. The utilities expense is partly mitigated by solar panels, which supply about 50% of HCSD’s electricity requirements.

Transportation includes vehicles to HCSD schools, to other districts for some special education students, and to private schools within 15 miles of Hudson.

To offset the anticipated 12% increase in transportation costs, the HCSD is studying the possibility of:

•Combining routes. Hopefully, buses will be allowed to carry more than 40 students at a time again, Mr. Boehme said

•Shared services with other districts

•More community stops replacing some door-to-door service, for both public and private school students.

Mr. Boehme also previewed what the district could plan with different tax levies. This year the HCSD can increase its tax levy by as much as 2.93% above what it is in the current year’s levy, but district Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler has said the increase will be less than the maximum amount. Current budget planning assumes a tax levy 2% higher than the current year. But if the new levy is 2.5% higher, the HCSD would expand its Extended Day Learning program. On the other hand, if the levy is only 1.5% higher, the district would have to drop plans to add some new professional staff.

Factors influencing the budget that are not yet known include BOCES projections, actual out-of-district placements, contract obligations for aides, actual state aid, and outstanding grant applications. The budget’s final draft is slated for presentation April 5.

On another topic, Dr. Spindler reported that for two weeks the district will hold a sports camp for third-through-sixth graders, offering a choice of a variety of activities from baseball to dance. The sports camp will run within the six weeks of summer school, but at a different time than the academic classes. It will welcome both summer school students and fall-spring only students.  An important feature, Dr. Spindler said, will be providing sports equipment free of charge, at least to students whose families would find paying for it challenging.

In addition to summer school and sports camp, the HCSD will run Camp Invention during a different week of the summer.

Also at the March 15 meeting:

•Board member Sage Carter announced that this spring there will be no JV softball or baseball, because not enough students signed up

•Ms. Carter said the HCSD is looking forward to opening some of its facilities for public rental again. To re-open the pool, however, it needs more than the one lifeguard it has on staff. The district will talk with Hudson’s Youth Center

•Student Representative Jacob Hromada said “people are taking a good attitude” toward the mask-optional policy. There is “no antagonism between” those who choose to keep wearing masks and those who choose to go maskless

•Diana Cruz, director of Programs and Services for the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement, reminded the board of the need for a Diversity Equity and Inclusion policy that accommodates community members with limited English. She said that although she has a “wonderful impression” of the HCSD overall, a few students have “fallen through the cracks.” One factor is parents or guardians who cannot communicate with school officials in English. She gave examples of a guidance counselor who dismissed a problem as “not in my hands.” The district has been developing a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy

•Dr. Spindler announced that Olana has an educational component and would like to partner with the HCSD to “maximize learning opportunities,” including for special education students.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will be Tuesday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at Hudson High School.

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