Proposed Hudson School Budget Up While Revenues Down

October 24, 2014
by Lynne Ober

Hudson School Superintendent Bryan Lane has advised the Hudson School Board that he passed all the requested budget increases on without making any changes.

As a result spending is up 4.6 percent while revenues will be down. He was, unfortunately, not able to give the school board a figure for the amount that taxes would go up as a result of both actions. Instead he discussed how much the increased spending would increase the tax rate, but failed to include how much the decreasing revenues would impact the tax rate. Thus a complete overall picture was not presented for the school board’s initial review.

With school enrollments declining, revenues will decline. State aid is based on a per pupil assessment so declining revenues will always result in fewer adequacy dollars. However, a stipend is paid for every special education student so when that population grows, revenues will also grow with both state and federal support based on per pupil assessments.

Lane wrote, “We are anticipating a decrease in revenue of $870,668,” noting that this would result in a $ .34 increase per thousand of assessment to tax payers.

The presented budget is $51,150,723, which is an increase of $2,239,529. Lane did not present expected enrollments for the school year so it is impossible to calculate how much spending per pupil has changed. Nor did he make any academic assessment on the proposed increases and said that “the materials presented represent no reductions from the budgets proposed by the principals or SAU staff.”

This will leave first the board and then the Budget Committee in the difficult position of making academic assessments that used to be made by superintendents and principals in initial budget reviews.

The only recognition that Lane made of the shrinking enrollments was, “We are looking to find ways to consolidate positions and hire full-time staff which, in the long run, will be a cost savings.” Instead he said that staff had been added.

Although Lane said that “for the first time, we are budgeting for tuition for students who are court-placed and for students with 504 plans who do not fall under the special education umbrella,” his predecessor always included court-placed tuition and 504 plan expenses into the budget. Apparently this will be a first since Lane became superintendent. In fact, under Bell a Capital Reserve Trust Fund was set up to cover unbudgeted special education needs, which would cover tuition for a student not in district during budget time.

Lane said the increase in salaries would account for an increase of $ .49 per thousand on the tax rate and noted the total salary and benefit increase in this year’s budget was $1,266,953. Utilities are also expected to go up and Lane said that increase accounted for $ .07 per thousand on the tax rate. Aging computers and equipment plus a request to paint the SAU building at a cost of $31,000 are also included.

All of this will need careful consideration by the school board, who will also need to calculate why school budgets are increasing more than the inflation rate while student population shrinks. It will be a difficult budget year again.