On Sunday, Gossips reported that the 2011-2012 Hudson City School District budget was increasing by 1.7 percent over 2010-2011, and the tax levy was likely to increase by 14.3 percent. The news from the Board of Education meeting on Monday night--the last budget workshop before the BOE votes on the budget on April 11--isn't much better. It seems that HCSD has $300,000 left over in the capital reserve fund because the bids for the roofing project came in under budget, so with this additional $300,000, HCSD can hold the increase in the tax levy to a mere 12.6 percent.
BOE member Peter Meyer argued there were ways to reduce the budget that had not been explored. He cited specifically reductions in central administration, salary freezes, limiting busing, the sale of the Greenport School, the sale of John L. Edwards School. He criticized the way the issue of budget cuts had been approached, explaining that a better result might have been achieved if the faculty of each of the four HCSD schools had been brought together and tasked with figuring out "how we can run a good educational program and cut 20 percent from the budget." He bemoaned the current situation: 28 positions eliminated and taxes up 12.6 percent.
BOE member Mary Daly, along with most of her colleagues, seemed to have no qualms about increasing the tax levy by 12.6 percent. She chided Meyer, stating that, because state aid had been reduced by 11 percent, HCSD had to raise its tax levy on property in the district by 12.6 percent.
Elizabeth Fout was the only member of the BOE other than Meyer who seemed to have any sense of the magnitude of a 12.6 percent tax increase. "This is heart wrenching," said Fout. "This is a lot of money. . . . We could lose our houses. This is no joke."
One amazing thing came to light at Monday's meeting. If the BOE approves the current budget on April 11, and it goes to the voters for approval on May 17, we could end up with a 12.6 percent increase in our school taxes even if the voters reject the budget. When a school budget is rejected, one of three things can happen: (1) the same budget can be presented for a second time; (2) an altered, hopefully reduced budget can be presented to the voters for approval; (3) the BOE could decide to go immediately to contingency, which would allow them to increase the tax levy by 12.6 percent anyway. Remarkable, but apparently true.