- An increase this year over last year of $1,559,666 for a total budget of $52,244,404. (I guess a lot of people have tons of spare COVID change looking for a home.) This is the biggest budget in HCSD history, and also, as I have said before, this is the biggest local tax bill you will ever pay in your life.
- They also want you to approve a 2.97% increase in Superintendent Maria Suttmeier’s pay to a record $204,000 (Is this what an F-minus earns you? See below.)
- Lucy Segar, a professional educator from the Catskill School District, wants to be re-elected to the Board.
- There are no other “official candidates” for the two other empty Board slots, though I am sure a write-in campaign has been organized by someone. Beware. It is illegal for school districts to favor or recruit board candidates or organize write-in campaigns. If you have been contacted on this front you must tell NY State education officials. But it is telling that no one wants to be on that Board.
Here are some of the things that are not on the ballot and not in the useless brochure they just mailed to the Hudson “community” (the brochure is on the website so the mandated mailing is a waste):
- State funding to the District is up 5.13% this year
- The HCSD is receiving this year Federal COVID stimulus monies of $1,856,505
- The HCSD is receiving this year Federal American Rescue Plan Act funds of $4,108,737
(This is all NEW money to the District, and there is no system in place for oversight of any kind.)
- The HCSD is selling JLE for $3,000,000, and the monies are going back into the “reserve funds” and soon will disappear.
- The District has already collected (without a vote) $600,000 from your pockets for the “utility tax.” They describe the District as eligible for this revenue but fail to mention that is a 100% optional tax. The District can simply say “no” to this tax and turn it off. Other school systems throughout the State refuse to enact the tax for fear of a revolt.
- The District is seeing sharply declining enrollment in line with the County’s projected 6% loss of enrolled students for 2021-2022. The HCSD will see 30 to 40 fewer students this new year. SO, it’s more money for less kids. It’s in their own report card.
- The HCSD is paying approximately $29,000 to educate each student in the District this year.
- The budget for 2021-2022 is actually 3.08% higher than last year; the tax levy of 1.35% is a misleading number.
- They actually tell taxpayers that they dare not reduce taxes or refund the taxpayer any part of the 2021 bounty because the taxpayer might get used to it. So, to the HCSD, any money they receive adds to their addiction.
- Finally (and please sit down for this one), even if you vote this giant budget down, you are still APPROVING a contingency budget of $52,109,873 (it’s in the fine print)—only $134,531 (not the $325,970 they advertise) less than the real budget! Still, the biggest budget in Hudson’s history! The contingency budget reflects a 2.8% budget increase from last year. However you vote, you are approving this contingency budget just by voting. There will be no re-vote whatsoever. They don’t care what you think about these millions and certainly don’t want you to have two shots at shooting it down.
30% College Readiness
20% Math and Reading Proficiency
20% Math and Reading Performance
10% Underserved Student Performance
10% College Curriculum Breadth
10% Graduation Rate
- I appeared solo, and asked multiple questions, at PFs 12, 14, 15, 16, and 56. One father appeared at PF 36 and asked about school re-openings and then wondered out loud why no other parent was at the meeting. No one else, at all, appeared at any other public forum. As for the public budget hearings, there was one hearing that had some 10 people involved but was Zoom-bombed. Since then, one or two people have wandered into and out of the budget hearings, but it is important to note that the meetings are no longer Zoom available. Regardless, no public questions were asked. So, with no one in the audience, the BOE decided to use the budget hearing time to ask itself questions during the time allotted to the “community” just to fill a gap in the minutes. When I questioned this ridiculous and pathetic practice in writing to the District, I was told that Board members are members of the community as well. This is true unless you don’t buy this absurd explanation.
Do they know this? The future already exists in our homes, on our streets, in our families, in our political system, and in educational circles. It’s too late to plan for the future. You have to act now, not plan now. And certainly “academic excellence” has been proven to be out of the reach and beyond the capability of the current HCSD leadership.
So, we must start over. First, drop this outdated, badly worded, and out of touch new slogan. Start with a new team, new vision, new approach, and a new community outreach program. There are qualified candidates; see the name in paragraph 2 here.
And by the way, why does the taxpayer never, ever get the refund they are told should come their way when money is flying around like confetti?
Vote a firm “NO” on the 2021-2022 MASSIVE budget proposal, and at the very least send this Board a message and build your own engaged school community one vote at a time. Stop the internal “money shuffling” (for which their outside auditors have taken them to task every year) that occurs on a daily basis at the highest levels of the HCSD as they make excess funds stay in their hands and useful for whatever purposes they see fit.
The “Future Focused Goals” should have included building a new relationship with the “community” and installing new, fresh, accountable leadership at both the Superintendent level and the Board leadership level. (It should also include improving that F-minus grade that the whole world has now seen. Put it in the contract of the new Superintendent.)
Rebuilding can and must start now--before it is too late for traumatized and overstretched Hudson district taxpayers and the young learners who desperately need this entire scenario to move and improve quickly.
And don’t forget to reach out to all the youngsters and teachers you encounter in the community and say "thank you" for risking their lives when it mattered most and for being the positive stewards and friends they have been during this scary and historic period of our lives. Now, with the chance to create a new community in a new world, let’s get students and educators the new leadership they deserve to move them forward, legitimately focused on what can be done today to achieve this.
* U.S. News and World Report, “Best High Schools,” April 2021