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HCSD officials foresee trouble if state lumps aid lines


HUDSON—Helping people pay school taxes and getting athletes special masks highlighted the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education online meeting and the budget workshop immediately preceding it February 16.

“Is there an arrangement for homeowners who cannot afford to pay their school taxes?” a viewer emailed the budget workshop. “Will there be a monthly payment plan?”

Business Administrator Jesse Boehme said he has not heard about anything like that but would try to find out.

District Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier and board member Sage Carter noted that such a program would benefit people who lost their jobs in the past year.

“What is the biggest lesson learned in the pandemic?” came another question from a viewer.

“That it’s hard to plan when you don’t know what will happen,” Mr. Boehme said, adding that the district must provide the best possible education while being “frugal.”

He announced that the governor’s office has released the data that he uses to begin estimating how much the district will receive in state aid for 2021-22. The trouble is, he said, these numbers assume that the federal government will give New York State $6 billion for education. If the state gets less or more, the numbers could change.

In addition, much state aid to school districts is for specific categories, and the governor has proposed combining 11 categories into one category called Service Aid. These categories include textbooks, libraries, computer hardware and software, and BOCES (the regional provider of services that include vocational and special education). The governor tried combining them for 2020-21 but backed off after education officials raised objections. Mr. Boehme said that combining these categories would make designing the budget harder.

‘Our students are so happy to do anything that was part of normal.’

Supt. Maria L. Suttmeier

Hudson City School District

The threat that the state might cut school aid below what it budgeted is almost certainly gone for 2020-21, but it could become possible for 2021-22, Mr. Boehme cautioned. The district must prepare for a year when every installment of state aid might come in less than what was originally budgeted.

“We can expect a tight budget,” Ms. Carter concluded.

And yet, Dr. Suttmeier said, “we have collective bargaining agreements and health insurance. Some expenses keep increasing for us.”

Under the state tax cap law the maximum property tax levy increase that school districts can expect will be 1.56% over last year’s spending, Mr. Boehme reported.

In the regular meeting, Athletic Director Derek Reardon, who is also principal of Hudson Junior High, spoke about plans Columbia County school districts have made for sports this semester, while Dr. Suttmeier called attention to an athlete-friendly mask.

The semester will have three sports seasons: Winter (February 16 – March 13); “Fall 2” (March 7 – May 1); and Spring (May 3 – June 25).

A few winter sports will not take place because not enough players signed up. But some basketball and volleyball games are on. “Forty-two student athletes were tested [for Covid] today, and forty-two tested negative,” Mr. Reardon said.

The Fall 2 season will partially make up fall sports, including football.

Mr. Reardon summarized the new rules, including: once-a-week rapid testing of players and coaches, no cheerleaders at basketball games, and no spectators. In addition, the players must wear masks at all times, even when playing basketball or football. And if a mask gets saturated with sweat, they must change it “immediately,” even during a game.

“Wouldn’t masks interfere with breathing in football?” a viewer asked.

Dr. Suttmeier said that Underarmour sells a Sports Mask that allows much more breathing and handles sweat much better than conventional masks. After a discussion about the cost, Dr. Suttmeier later said that the athletic department is getting Underarmour athletic masks on sale through Amazon. “They are reusable,” she said.

Meanwhile, maintenance workers are building “beautiful benches” outside for baseball and softball, said Mr. Boehme.

Mr. Reardon said that his student athletes are not looking at how many fewer games they will play than traditionally. “They’re happy they can play some games.”

As for more general observations about the district’s schools:

“Our students are so happy to do anything that was part of normal,” said Dr. Suttmeier, who added that “being physically active” is normal.

“It was real good to see 11th and 12th graders in the hallways,” said Mr. Boehme.

“I’m impressed by how teachers have adapted and continue to adapt,” said Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Prestipino said the district has submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Education for a waver from the grade 3-8 assessments.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, March 2, starting with a budget workshop at 6:00 pm, followed by the regular meeting at 6:30.

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