Thursday, May 26, 2011

HCSD Budget

There's another budget workshop tonight at 7 p.m. In the meantime, a list of short-term and long-term options for reducing the budget, the product of last night's workshop, is on the HCSD website.

One of the items on the list of short-term options is eliminating busing within the city limits of Hudson. Because of HCSD's status as an "enlarged small city school district," state education law permits the BOE to do this without a public referendum. A move to eliminate busing for all students in the district living within a radius of 1.5 miles of the school would require a referendum.

For anyone who has witnessed the convoy of buses pulling out of the driveway at JLE, many with only a couple kids aboard, or wondered why those buses can't turn off their engines while waiting for school to be dismissed or marveled at the HCSD policy of busing every student in the district, even those who live only a couple blocks from school, or watched parents standing in the cold with their children waiting for the bus when a brisk walk to school would have gotten them there safely in less time, the $2.2 million transportation budget seems the ideal place to make cuts. Unfortunately, the first step toward whittling down the transportation budget--the only one the BOE can make in the short term--is likely to bring protests of inequity similar to those heard a few years ago when HCSD introduced bus passes and required only students living in Hudson to have them.

If the BOE decides to eliminate busing in Hudson, many Hudson students will end up having to walk more than a mile and a half to school, while students in Greenport living closer to the school will still be bused. The driving distance between the high school and the southern border of Hudson on Worth Avenue is 2 miles. The driving distance between the high school and Bliss Towers is exactly 1.5 miles. Still, reducing busing is an important move toward sustainability on many levels, and the community of Hudson could set an example by providing safe routes for kids to walk and bike to school.

One of the long-term options on the list is "Looking into recycling, solar and wind energy." The 2011-2012 HCSD budget includes $600,000 for electricity--an increase of $200,000 over 2010-2011. When the increased allocation for electricity was mentioned at a meeting on April 4, Daniel Barrett, HCSD business manager, explained that the increase was necessary to cover the electricity demands of the new junior high school building, now less than a year old. You have to wonder why--since it was predictable that, with all the computers, smart boards, and other technology, the new building was going to increase the district's electricity usage--it never occurred to anyone to explore, when the building was being designed, putting solar panels on the roof or using geothermal energy to heat and cool it.

One thing that was revealed during last night's meeting is that salary increases for the teaching staff have been written into the budget, although Superintendent Jack Howe refused to disclose the exact amount since the district is in contract negotiations with the Hudson Teacher's Association. Although many members of the community are calling for teachers to "share the pain" and many individual teachers are reportedly willing to accept a salary freeze, the teachers' union has so far steadfastly refused any concessions to ease the burden for district taxpayers or to save the jobs of their colleagues. 

The minutes of last night's meeting are available here.

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