HUDSON—The Hudson City School District (HCSD) expects increases in state funding, but the district’s “costs will increase more than the state aid,” district Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler told the Board of Education at the February 15 meeting. The board also heard of the need to communicate with district residents whose English is limited.
The meeting included this year’s first “community budget workshop” for building the 2022-23 budget. This workshop consisted of a presentation by Dr. Spindler and Business Administrator Jesse Boehme. They estimated that the state will give the district in total about 3% more money than last year, but the District’s expenses will also increase. The tax levy can be a maximum of 2.93% higher than it was last year. They also compared some budget-relevant features of the Hudson District with those of other districts they judged similar.
“Why are expenses increasing when the school population is decreasing?” asked board member Selha Graham. Because of contractual obligations to employees and the cost of utilities, replied Dr. Spindler.
According to the estimate by the superintendent and Mr. Boehme, contract obligations will increase by 3%, retirement benefits and health insurance by 3.5%, and “fuel & electric” by 5%.
The expense increase is for transportation is expected to be 13%. Bids the district received for some bus routes were higher than anticipated, explained Mr. Boehme. Eventual additional costs are anticipated if buses convert to electric. Under study is whether redesigning and rescheduling bus routes can reduce the costs, added Dr. Spindler.
The section of state aid earmarked for transportation is expected to increase about 20%.
“Hudson is unique in many ways,” said Dr. Spindler. For one thing, “it’s a small city in a rural area.”
Nevertheless, the HCSD was judged to share enough similarities with other districts for the presentation to compare it to eight of them: four in Albany County, two in Rensselaer County, and two in Columbia County.
Of the nine “peer” school districts compared in the presentation, three of them are in Columbia County: Hudson, Kinderhook and Taconic Hills.
Features compared included:
• Students-per-teacher ratio was almost 10 in all three districts
• Average teacher salary: Hudson $78,000; Kinderhook $74,000; Taconic Hills $73,000
• Percent of enrolled students in families with “low incomes”: Hudson 70.2%; Kinderhook 36.2%; Taconic Hills 42.4%.
The next three board meetings will also contain community budget workshops. The draft of the proposed budget will be presented to the board on April 5. The budget faces the voters on May 17.
‘Hudson is unique in many ways.’
Superintendent Lisamarie Spindler
Hudson City School District
On another topic, several speakers from the audience urged the board to adopt a policy that helps people with limited English communicate with the district. The board is already crafting a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy, and the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement (CCSM) wanted to emphasize that the groups the policy welcomes and accommodates include people whose English language skills is currently weak.
Two speakers, a Ms. “R” (her full name withheld at her request) and Juan Sanchez, read statements in Spanish, and Elvia Garcia, a community organizer for CCSM, translated what they said into English.
Ms. R. said that when her older child was in Hudson High School, Ms. R. received several papers and phone calls from the school. They never came with Spanish translations. The only thing Ms. R. understood in the communications was that they were about her child. She asked her child whether there was a problem in school, and her child responded that everything was normal. But when Ms. R. got friends to translate some of the documents, she found out her child was failing. Her child ended up leaving high school without graduating. Now Ms. R. worries whether she will be able to help the younger children who live with her get through school.
Mr. Sanchez, a co-founder of CCSM, said that though his son graduated from high school in 2020, he had not been as involved in his son’s education as he wanted to be. He could not help him do his homework. It was difficult to communicate with teachers and the school staff. None of his son’s schools had translators or interpreters. Sometimes his son served as the interpreter.
In general, Mr. Sanchez continued, parents who cannot speak English do not participate in the school, not because they don’t want to but because they cannot. And when parents are not involved with the school, he said, sometimes students go on a wrong path.
Ibrahim Malik, a senior at Hudson High School, said in English that when he immigrated from Bangladesh, the HCSD was “excellent” for his learning English, but his parents still have trouble understanding it. Sometimes he has to interpret for them, often regarding younger children, and that encroaches on his time.
Bryan MacCormack, co-executive director of CCSM, identified himself as an alumni of the HCSD and a soccer coach and said that his coaching has acquainted him more with the language issues faced by some students and their families.
Also at the meeting, auditor Michael Wolff reported that the internal risks the HCSD faces come from “staff insufficiency,” staff turnover and vulnerability to cyberterrorism.
The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education is Tuesday, March 1, at 6 p.m. beginning with a community budget workshop.