A Letter from the Superintendent
To the Hen Hud Community:
Since this past weekend, I have heard from PTA leaders, staff, community members, business leaders and colleagues throughout the region regarding troubling and false information being posted on various social media sites, as well as YouTube. The topic has been our district’s budget challenges in the wake of Indian Point’s closure. Based on these reports, and given the misrepresentation of what is being shared, I felt it would be helpful to provide an update to the school community.
First, a bit of background. When Indian Point announced its impending closure in 2017, the community was understandably shocked and concerned about the future of the district’s financial condition. The district immediately commenced advocacy efforts. We knew advocacy alone was not sufficient and that we would have to look at our expenses in light of reduced revenues. Earlier this winter, the Board of Education took the very bold step of commissioning a thorough Cost Analysis to study the option of reorganizing our elementary students.
The main objective of the Cost Analysis has always been to answer this critical question: are there opportunities for us to streamline how we deliver educational services in order to mitigate significant tax increases in the future? It was critical that this analysis was done by a bonafide organization with experience in this field, taking into account state and federal laws and regulations that govern schools. It was also important that the recommendations would not increase taxes, in terms of new borrowing for future school construction.
Throughout this week, parents, staff and community members have continued to reach out to me regarding rumors of an alternative proposal making its way around the district. I would, therefore, like to take a moment to be crystal clear:
At no time have the creators of the social media sites and YouTube channel, those who are responsible for creating this alternate proposal, asked to meet with the district, sought information, or expressed a desire to share their alternative proposal for the district to consider. Their analysis is based on opinions and interest, not on fact.
The proposal, however, has gained great interest and since become a topic of debate.
This proposal calls for:
- closing both Buchanan-Verplanck and Furnace Woods Elementary schools
- moving all elementary students to Blue Mountain Middle School
- moving all middle school students to Frank G. Lindsey
For many, many specific reasons, this proposal is a non-starter. However, we did perform a cost-out, based on NYS Education Department, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation and other agency regulations.
The result: the estimated cost of this proposal, adhering to regulatory requirements, would cost approximately $200 million, not including interest. This represents a tax increase of 300% and, like all construction proposals, the community would need to approve the spending plan.
Putting the financials of the proposal aside, the fact that it would necessitate new construction and renovation of existing space creates more problems than it solves. New construction would likely not be permitted at either the middle school or FGL due to space limitations and environmental considerations, rendering this proposal unrealistic.
Again, not once has the district been approached by any of the individuals promoting this proposal, to discuss it in a meaningful way. If we had been, the enormity of the cost and tax increase alone would have eliminated unnecessary debate and avoided the kind of emotional rhetoric that has, unfortunately, recently surfaced.
Information, documentation and presentations regarding our budget can be found on our website, under School Board/Budget Updates. Additionally, if you have specific questions, you may email them to: Budget@HenHudSchools.org.
Joseph E. Hochreiter