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Superintendent Discusses District's Future on “RiverTalk” Podcast

Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter recently chatted with Christian Larson, host of “RiverTalk,” a new podcast produced by River Journal and featured on its website. Larson and the superintendent discussed the district’s relationship with Indian Point up until now and what impact the plant’s closure is having on school programs, district finances and resident taxes.

Hochreiter gave a brief overview of the Hendrick Hudson School District and how Indian Point has traditionally been a great partner. He noted that Indian Point has supported “teachers and students going on tours and field trips, mentored some of our students who are budding scientists, provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds and supplies and equipment so we can support and expand our STEM initiatives. They have been nothing but a fantastic community partner, and we’re very sad to see them go.”

The district stands to lose about 30% of its budget after Indian Point’s PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) payments come to an end. “I don’t have to speak in great detail to parents, or any community member, to understand how significant a budget reduction of 30% is,” said Hochreiter. “Three out of every ten dollars going out the door is significant - whether it’s a business, your personal budget, or a school district.”

He described how the district has spent the last four years figuring out how to confront this shortfall -- engaging with the community on strategies for keeping Hendrick Hudson a “destination district,” advocating with elected officials to uncover additional revenue sources, and looking internally at practices and programs, in order to make them more efficient and reduce the tax burden on the local community. He described the district as proceeding on two paths: advocacy and envisioning what the future looks like, post-Indian Point.

The conversation also covers the district’s consideration of the Princeton Plan as a way to save approximately $2 million per year. “There are some savings to be had by reorganizing our elementary students a little bit differently, and that’s a discussion we’ve been having in our community for almost a year, and we’re going to continue to have, because we know that our taxpayers need some relief.”

He continued, “Discussing reorganizing elementary students is a necessary and rewarding conversation, but also very emotional, and it brings out a lot of different opinions that really need to be heard and vetted.”

Asked about the future of the district, Hochreiter said, “I know we’ll be OK,” noting that there hasn’t been any sort of mass exodus from the area since Indian Point’s closure announcement. He pointed to positive reports from local realtors that home sales are up, home prices are up, and houses for sale are spending less time on the market.

“Our future remains bright – our programs are top notch, and in these challenges are opportunities,” he said. “I think as long as we continue to deal with reality, and have optimism that these challenges can bring about positive change and opportunities that we otherwise wouldn’t have thought about, I think we’re going to be just fine.”

Listen to the podcast here: