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Friday, February 3, 2012

Voters eye school budget

HUDSON – A $45.8 million budget proposal and two union contracts will be up for discussion Saturday , at the Hudson School District’s Deliberative Session.

Voters will take up the three-question warrant Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Hudson Community Center at 12 Lions Ave. They will consider the district’s proposed operating budget, which is about $800,000, or 1.8 percent, higher than the current year’s $45 million spending plan.

Under the budget proposal, district officials would eliminate a high school physical education teacher position and they would reduce a middle school administrator position to part-time. They are also proposing up to $250,000 in further cuts, looking to hire less expensive teachers and staff.

But, administrators say these cuts wouldn’t effect the quality of education in classrooms across the district.

“We won’t reduce staff or work through the attrition piece at the expense of larger class sizes or programs that we feel are essential,” Superintendent Randy Bell said Wednesday. “We’ve always had a balance (of youthful and experienced teachers), and I expect we would maintain that.”

Once town voters act on the proposed warrant articles, they will send them forward to the annual school district elections March 13.

On the whole, the district’s proposed budget is about $420,000 less than the default budget, which goes into effect if voters reject the budget.

Much of the difference comes from cuts to the district’s furniture and facility costs, according to school board member Amy Sousa, who sits on the district’s budget committee.

“We primarily cut tangible items, as opposed to people,” she said Wednesday. “(The budget) was approved unanimously by the budget committee. That almost never happens.”

The other two warrant articles going before voters at Saturday’s meeting both involve union contracts.

School board members have negotiated three-year contract agreements for district secretaries and custodians, among other workers.

Neither contract includes any salary increase over the life of the pact, though both include sick day incentives.

District voters shot down contracts last year proposing salary increases. Despite the frozen pay rates, secretaries and custodians alike will maintain solid pay rates, said Bell.

“The school board really values our employees and would like to attract and retain great employees, and we know that freezing salaries over the long run is not the way to do that,” added Sousa, the school board member. “Having said that, we’re happy not to be bringing added costs to the district.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or