HUDSON—Schools Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler proposed a $54.1 million budget, with a 2% tax levy increase for the 2022-23 school year to the Board of Education March 5. The proposal faces voters in the May 17 Hudson City School District (HCSD) elections, when the voters will also elect five of the board’s seven members.
Under this budget, the HCSD would not lay off any employees and it would hire additional employees for new positions, despite some rising costs and a tax levy that would increase at less than the full amount allowed.
The $54.1 million is 3.6% ($1.9 million) more than for the 2021-22 budget of $52.2 million. The proposal assumes $26 million in state aid and calls for a $25 million tax levy. The proposal sees 48% of the budget coming from state aid, 46% would come from taxes, and 6% from other sources.
The $26 million state aid would be 3% higher than for 2020-21. About two thirds of state funding is “foundation aid,” which gives the district leeway on its use. The remaining third is divided into different aid categories earmarked for specific purposes. The 3% increase applies to both foundation aid (from $16.8 million to $17.3 million) and the aggregate of all the different earmarked funds, though each one is changing by a different amount.
The $25-million tax levy would be 2% higher than for 2020-21, even though this year the state allows it to be up to 4.57% more. Earlier this year, Dr. Spindler promised to keep the tax levy lower than the maximum because of the stress faced by many district families in these times.
The proposal calls for spending 23% of the $54.1 million on Regular School Teaching, 23% on employee benefits, 15% on programs for students with disabilities, 9.5% on debt service, 7% on transportation, 5% on operation and maintenance of site, and 18% on other categories.
Of these divisions, the transportation expenditure is up 10% ($344,000) from last year, because of the rising costs of labor and fuel.
One way to reduce these costs is to reduce the number of bus runs.
Business Administrator Jesse Boehme said he was speaking with Elementary School Principal Mark Brenneman about combining more ages within a bus and speaking with the Germantown Central School District about combining some routes going to the same destination, such as a private school or special education program, across districts. In addition, Dr. Spindler pointed out that the HCSD ultimately receives about 50% of the transportation cost back from the state.
Within employee benefits, the teacher retirement cost would increase 22% ($335,000). But total employee benefits are up only 1.6%, because of changes in other benefits. Health benefits are expected to rise less than 1%.
Within Services for Students with Disabilities, tuition for those students placed out of district is increasing 14% ($236,000), but because of decreases in expenditures for “contractual and materials and supplies,” the total expenditure for these services is increasing only 2.5%.
New positions include social workers, for which the HCSD anticipates spending $333,000.
Since 2017-18, the HCSD tax levy has increased by less than the maximum allowed by the state. (See chart.) However, administrators acknowledged that increasing the levy—the amount to be raised by the local school tax—by less than the allowed limit has consequences for the future.
The lower the tax levy is this year, the lower the base is for calculating next year’s tax levy limit. And many factors suggest the HCSD might find higher tax levies desirable in the near future, Mr. Boehme acknowledged. Property values are rising, and higher property values mean less state aid. Federal aid to states can dry up, leaving states with less to give their schools. Teacher salaries might rise faster than anticipated.
The May 17 vote, in addition to the budget, also includes electing five people to the board. The tenure of four of the board’s seven members expires in May or June. Of these, only three are running for re-election. In addition, a fifth board member, Sage Carter, is resigning May 17. So of the five open seats, at least two must be filled by people not currently on the board.