Last month’s column highlighted the incredible volunteers who help support the Hudson City School District by donating their time and talents. Without our valuable community volunteers, many of our district’s programs and events would not be as successful as they are.
As we all know, the district cannot be supported by volunteers alone. Like most organizations, public schools require funding in order to operate efficiently. New York State’s public schools are primarily funded by a combination of state aid and community tax dollars. For this reason, it is vital to be open about the annual budget so our community can make informed decisions when casting votes on Tuesday, May 17th.
The $45,910,371 budget is a 0.95% increase from the 2015-16 budget. The process and design used in the development of HCSD’s 2016-17 budget was a direct result of the New York State Property Tax Cap Law. The proposed budget would increase the tax levy by 2.15 percent, which is equal to the maximum allowable tax levy based on the 8-step NYS Property Tax Cap calculation (visit www.hudsoncityschooldistrict.com/budget to learn more about why the commonly used phrase “2% tax cap” is misleading).
Because HCSD is tax cap compliant (within the maximum allowable tax levy increase), some taxpayers will be eligible for a NYS refund check due to the new STAR Property Tax Rebate Law. As part of the NYS Executive Budget passed in April, this tax relief program reimburses qualifying homeowners for increases in local property taxes in districts that remain within the allowable tax levy and have a plan implemented to save at least one percent of the levy over three years. Hudson CSD has met both of these requirements. To learn if you are eligible for this rebate, please visit our “Budget Information” webpage.
There are a few factors that influenced the proposed 2016-17 budget and tax levy that are worth mentioning. In terms of projected state aid, HCSD is the only school district in Columbia County to receive a reduction in state aid for the upcoming school year. Other districts in the county are set to receive state aid increases of 3-7 percent, whereas HCSD’s state aid will decrease by 0.53 percent (totaling $115,902).
In addition to a decrease in state funding, HCSD will lose approximately $200,000 in School Improvement funds as a result of no longer being identified as a “focus district” by the NYS Education Department. Earning the label of a district in “good standing” is a positive and significant accomplishment, however it means there is a need to reallocate funds in the regular budget so that the district can continue to provide instrumental services that were previously supported by School Improvement funds.
Despite a 0.53 percent decrease in state aid and the loss of School Improvement Funds, this budget was developed with the intent to maintain and improve all programs within our schools.
Staffing and programming make up the majority of the district’s operating costs (approximately 70 percent). Therefore, each year administrators are asked to carefully evaluate specific student needs and building necessities. In an effort to better provide our students with a balanced academic and co-curricular education, we are pleased to present a budget that includes the addition of several key staff.
The budget includes the addition of a certified social worker at the secondary level to further assist students with social-emotional challenges, the transition to high school and other counseling as needed. An English as New Language (ENL) teacher has been included to fulfill mandated service requirements for students learning English as a new language.
Other staff additions include a dually certified English/Special Education teacher at the secondary level to reduce class sizes and support both regular and special education students, and a part-time music teacher at the secondary level to support our students’ growing interest in the music program.
In addition to the proposed budget, voters will be asked to select candidates to fill three vacant seats on HCSD’s Board of Education. The terms of three members of the Board of Education—Michelle Camacho, Sumayyah Shabazz, and William Kappel—are expiring and must be filled. One seat is for a five-year term, one is for a three-year term and the other is for a two-year term. The highest number of votes will receive the five-year term, the next highest will receive the three-year term and the lowest number of votes obtained will receive the two-year term.
Please exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, May 17th between the hours of noon and 9 p.m. (please note that polling locations have been consolidated at the request of the Board of Elections):
- District 1: Hudson – John L. Edwards Primary School, 360 State Street
- District 2: Greenport, Stottville/Stockport, Ghent – Greenport Pumper Co. No. 1, 216 Green Street (across from Cedar Park Cemetery)
- District 3: Claverack, Livingston, Taghkanic – Claverack Fire House, 67 State Route 23
It is an honor to continue serving as Superintendent of Schools of the Hudson City School District. Together we can make this a dynamic place to learn. Thank you for all of your support – it does indeed take a village.
To learn more about this year’s proposed budget, school board vacancies, and polling locations visit www.hudsoncityschooldistrict.com and click on the “Budget Information” link.