HUDSON–After months of agonizing, the Hudson School Board adopted a proposed 2010-11 budget this week that cuts 50 jobs and raises the tax levy 3.98%. If approved by voters May 18, the spending plan would close a $3.8-million budget gap.
The board adopted the measure at the board’s Tuesday, April 13, regular meeting.
The gap is the result of huge cuts in state aid and the annual rise in personnel related costs including salary increases, healthcare and retirement costs and related personnel obligations, which together comprise 70% of the district’s budget. The proposal would balance the budget by drawing down reserve funds, job cuts and a tax levy increase.
“Everything was on the table, every expenditure, program, service, and personnel,” said Superintendent John Howe.
The district proposal calls for saving $275,000 by cutting programs, including modified gym for the junior high and moving the Alternative Learning Program from trailer-classrooms at the otherwise vacant Greenport School to the new building on Harry Howard Avenue. But by far the biggest cut proposed calls for the elimination of 29.6 teaching positions, with 20 non-teaching staff also losing their jobs.The superintendent, who voluntarily gave up his annual raise hoping that others would do the same, said he had been meeting with district employee bargaining units to talk about “how they might help cut costs for the coming year” through freezing benefits, or forgoing salary increases. Nothing resulted from those talks.
At the meeting Jack Beyer, the faculty representative for New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the teachers’ union, said that on the advice of union officials, the Hudson faculty had not voted on whether to forgo raises to save the jobs of their colleagues. “As a whole we decided not to do it. We don’t know if teachers would take a salary freeze. If it were to happen, it would have to be unanimous,” he said.
The superintendent said he was still talking to bargaining units representing district employees.
A salary freeze would amount to a total savings of $700,000, which could restore 20 staff positions, said board member Peter Meyer, chairman of the Budget Committee. He had presented an alternative spending plan he called the “Share the Pain Budget,” which requested that faculty consider a freeze. “It’s one small sacrifice. The taxpayers are making a sacrifice,” he said.
Mr. Meyer also fought unsuccessfully to keep the Alternative Learning Program at the Greenport School.
Cuts made by the proposal amount to total spending reductions of $1,694,897. A 3.98% tax levy increase resulting in additional revenue of $649,720, combined with $500,000 from the district’s reserve fund resulted in a balanced budget of $40,932,878. The proposed budget has a decrease of $208,946 over the current year, about half a percent.
“Every district in the state is dealing with this to differing degrees,” said the superintendent. In the past, schools have seen funding restored late in the budget process by the state. But while the state has yet to adopt its now-overdue budget, school officials do not anticipate additional funding.
“Nothing will be the same next year. Everything will have to be looked at in a different way,” said Mr. Howe. “This is not a school district choice. This is what the state is forcing us to do.”