March 18 marks the one year anniversary of a new school setting for students, families and staff. Hardly anything in our schools looks or works the same as it did this time last year. School meals, transportation, masks and virtual classes are a few examples of how the Hudson City School District (HCSD) has changed since one year ago.
Some things remain unchanged, however, such as an unwavering commitment to provide our students with academic rigor, enrichment opportunities and social-emotional support despite the challenges of this school year.
Along with this commitment comes the development of the annual budget proposal for next school year. It is one thing we can rely on to keep our district moving forward in the face of uncertainty.
Every January, without fail, HCSD leaders start gathering information to drive the development of a proposed spending plan for the next school year. What are our staffing needs? What materials and supplies are needed to support our programs? How can we save costs throughout the district? What is our maximum allowable tax levy and how much must we levy to keep our schools running?
Budget development is a complex process that aims to strengthen our schools while remaining fiscally responsible for our taxpayers. Each budget year has its own challenges and this year is no exception. In fact, the budget development for the 2021-22 school year might be our most challenging yet.
Many school districts, including HCSD, are concerned about the future of state aid (which makes up approximately 48% of the school budget at HCSD). At this time, the state is planning to supplement school budgets using federal funds that were provided to help offset state budget deficits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts are concerned about what will happen when the state stops receiving federal funds and whether or not it will be able to continue funding public schools at the same level.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo is looking to consolidate 11 expense-driven aid categories into one category labeled “Services Aid.” Examples of current expense-driven aid categories include BOCES and Transportation Aid, and school districts can estimate the next year’s state aid amount based on current year expenses and enrollment. If the governor consolidates expense-driven aid, it would limit our ability to estimate that state aid revenue for the next school year and make it more difficult to develop our annual budget proposals.
Finally, we are facing budget development challenges due to the uncertainty of the 2021-22 school year. Schools will open in September but what will it look like? Will personal protective equipment such as face masks still be required? What will the social distancing requirements be on buses and in classrooms? Will we still need to offer virtual learning? How will we meet increased academic and social-emotional needs of students who are not performing as well this year due to the hybrid/virtual learning environment? As of now there is no clear guidance from the state, making it difficult to plan and budget for certain aspects of the upcoming school year.
The community is encouraged to attend one of our upcoming Budget Workshops to learn more about how we are developing the proposed spending plan for the 2021-22 school year. The next Budget Workshop is on Tuesday, March 16 from 6-6:30 p.m. in Room 22C at Hudson Senior High School (215 Harry Howard Ave, Hudson). Enter through the side entrance in the north parking lot (by the electronic sign).
Stay informed about the HCSD 2021-22 school budget proposal by visiting www.hudsoncsd.org/budget.
This column by Dr. Maria Lagana Suttmeier, Superintendent of Schools, is set to appear in the Register-Star newspaper on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.