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Despite aid cuts, Hudson schools budget plans more staff

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HUDSON–The Board of Education adopted a 2016-17 school budget proposal to set before voters May 17, after Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier presented the spending plan at the board’s April 19 meeting. The proposed budget calls for $45,910,371 in spending and a 2.15% tax levy increase.

If the proposal is approved, spending would rise $433,250 (.95%) above the current school year’s $45,477,121.

In addition to the budget, the ballot next month includes an election to fill three seats on the Hudson City School District Board of Education.

Dr. Suttmeier indicated at last week’s meeting that in working on the budget proposal, Business Administrator Sharifa Carbon considered a number of goals, among them maintaining and improving existing programs, including non-mandated ones.

Non-mandated programs include full-day kindergarten, high school electives, AP (advanced placement) courses, and the Bridge Alternate Transition Program.

There are no staff cuts in the proposals. Positions open because of retirement would be filled and new staff added. Retiree replacements will include a literacy coach, a music teacher and an elementary grades teacher.

Additions will include an ENL (English as a new language) secondary teacher, a dual certified English/ special education teacher, part-time music teachers and a certified social worker. The first two additions are mandated. The music teachers are being added at the request of students. Dr. Suttmeier said that during a budget crisis, the “Music Department took a cut” and now it is time to build it back. Recently, the number of students participating in music has shot up.

The social worker will work in the Guidance Department. Dr. Suttmeier said that consideration was given to adding an extra guidance counselor, but the decision was made to hire the social worker instead. Guidance counselors may recommend the social worker to students whose social emotional needs require extra attention.

One of the factors the district faced in preparing the plan was uncertainty as to whether current contract negotiations will continue past July 1, the start of the new school year. Of the districts five collective bargaining units, negotiations with teachers and administrators continue.

The district also wants this budget to provide a foundation for future years and it calls for maintaining a fund balance of 4% of the total budget.

Hudson was the only district in the county for which net state aid will decrease in the new school year, and funding for some mandated programs will fall 5-to-7%. Furthermore, extra funds for school improvement will go away now that Hudson has improved its performance so that it is no longer labeled as a “focus” district by the state Education Department. But Dr. Suttmeier said the programs that lifted the district’s educational achievement above focus status must continue.

Among the other considerations addressed by Ms, Cabon, the business administrator, are the district’s Vision 2020 goals and providing “efficiencies and cost savings.” These may include sharing some staff across grades, buildings and campuses.

In addition, some teachers may take on a sixth assignment. Typically a teacher teaches five periods a day but can teach a 6th period for $10,000 more a year. That costs the district less than hiring an additional person.

The next school board meeting will be Monday, May 9 at the Hudson High School library.

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