HUDSON – The Hudson Select Board voted 4-1 on Monday to approve a roughly $41.6 million budget for the Hudson Public Schools, granting that approval after some debate over the school district’s spending plans.
Hudson Public Schools Director of Finance and Operations Daniel Gale spoke during the budget presentation to the Select Board, saying that the schools will experience a budget gap after the 2024 fiscal year, once a key relief program becomes unavailable, among other things.
“This is the time I’m presenting to you with notice that, in a couple of years’ time…we’re going to need additional assistance from the town to maintain the same quality of services we’re providing to the Hudson Public Schools today,” Superintendent Marco Rodrigues said.
Gale said that there are three major factors necessitating a budget increase. The first is a need for more staffing and resources to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly due to higher social and emotional student support needs.
The second factor Gale mentioned is a large increase in multilingual learners in the Hudson school system. Gale said that Hudson needs to add three English language learner teachers next year in addition to one it has already added this year.
The third factor involved lingering effects of a townwide budget cut across all departments in June of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic
“It did seem like we were on track pre-pandemic to have a pretty sustainable budget outlook,” Gale said. “But that $800,000 budget cut was one of the major factors that have thrown off our budget outlook for the next five years.”
Select Board member Shawn Sadowski, who cast the lone “no” vote against the school district’s FY23 budget, said that no other town department has got back the amount cut from their budget in June 2020.
Sadowski said that, if the schools received the amount back, other departments, like the fire and police departments, would want that funding as well, triggering a “huge” bill for taxpayers.
“I think that’s something we’re just going to need to move forward with and forget about that,” Sadowski said.
School Committee Chair Michele Tousignant Dufour responded that no other department in Hudson had been hit as hard as the public schools were due to the pandemic.
Tousignant Dufour added that she tells her children that “fair does not always mean equal.”
“If somebody needs something at that time, then they get it in my house, even if it means to the detriment of someone else,” she said.
Select Board member Fred Lucy noted that the town’s student population is decreasing while he said the number of higher-paid, outside-building personnel trying to increase test scores has risen.
As a result, Lucy argued that the amount of spending per student has dramatically risen with no academic outcomes reported outside of Advanced Placement courses.
Sadowski and Lucy also both expressed disappointment with the timing of this budget presentation, taking place in April, with Sadowski saying he wants all town budgets to be in by January.
Rodrigues responded that the department’s business changes daily and that a budget assembled in December would be a “guesstimate.”
Lucy said that nothing prevents Hudson Public Schools from creating a preliminary budget in December and January and then moving around line item spending later in the process.
Rodrigues responded that it would be “disingenuous” to create a “fictitious” budget completely different from a final budget document.
The school budget can be viewed online at https://go.boarddocs.com/ma/hudsonma/Board.nsf/files/CDDQVK6B16CB/$file/%23FY23%20Budget%20Book%20Digital%20Version%20FINAL.pdf.