Despite COVID-19 setbacks, Hudson schools in good financial shape

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Despite the pandemic, the financial picture for the Hudson City Schools is good.

HUDSON – An anticipated positive appraisal, new construction, and grants for COVID-19 expenses mean that the Hudson City School district is in good shape financially, despite some increased costs due to the pandemic and a budget cut from the state.

Treasurer Phillip Butto, who presented the five-year forecast on Monday to the school board, said that one positive was that in fiscal year 2020, the district had ended with a positive cash balance of $168,305. The spring forecast had anticipated the district spending $91,125 more than it took in.

In addition, Butto said the city had a reappraisal coming up, and the district can anticipate about a 10% reappraisal rate.

“This will impact the collection year 2021,” Butto said. “This will help us with revenue growth and any levies coming down the road, as well as new construction coming in. That’s a good thing for us, and it shows the strength in the community.”

Butto added that the state and county was seeing a 9.6% reappraisal, and he “anticipated a little bit higher for Hudson after talking to a county official.”

Board member James Field said that he had read that “home sales have actually been doing pretty well in Hudson.”

Butto agreed, adding that “everything I’ve heard from my neighborhood, it’s a seller’s market.”

Another positive was commercial property, Butto said.

“It’s a really optimistic thing to look at,” Butto said. “There’s a lot of new construction, new businesses coming into Hudson and businesses that are expanding.”

There were some negatives reflected in the forecast, Butto said, most of them connected with the COVID-19 pandemic. One was the state budget cuts back in May. Butto  added that “everything we are hearing from the state is there will be no further cuts.”

Hudson schools lost about $1.145 million from its budget, about 10% of the funding the district gets from the state, and about 1.5% of the district’s budget overall. The district’s overall budget for 2020, according to information from the October 2019 five-year forecast, is about $65.3 million.

“We definitely took our lumps with the state budget cuts, but things like the Workers Comp reimbursement and other little things have helped us,” Butto said.

One thing that has helped the district are the grants that were made available to help cover costs related to the pandemic, Butto said. The Hudson schools have received “close to $700,000 in grants.”

The district may also need to shore up the food service budget, Butto said. He added an additional $80,000 to $100,000 might be needed but it was too early to tell.

“Participation rates are down due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Butto said, adding that the federal government reimburses districts for meals. “We are slightly behind.”

However, federal funds were made available to offer free meals to all students, regardless of whether they are on the free or reduced meal program. This program was initially supposed to end in December, but it was extended to the end of the school year.

“With the federal funds we received, participation has gone up,” Butto said. “We are receiving that reimbursement for every meal, and that has helped us. We are going to be really close.”

In addition, the athletic budget may need additional money in its budget, Butto said. Because of the strict limits on spectators at games, “we are not taking in nearly the revenue we normally do.”

One anticipated positive for the future will be the potential cost savings in utilities, with the district’s building program. The Hudson schools recently built a new middle school, which opened at the start of this school year. Ellsworth Hill had an addition and renovations that also were finished before the start of the school year, and McDowell and East Woods are currently undergoing renovations. East Woods also is getting an expansion. These improvements will make the buildings “more efficient from a utilities standpoint down the road,” Butto said.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com