Voters approve 8.25% increase in school tax levyResidents of the School District of Hudson will see an 8.25 tax levy increase after voters at the annual meeting on Sept. 8 approved the levy.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
Residents of the School District of Hudson will see an 8.25 tax levy increase after voters at the annual meeting on Sept. 8 approved the levy.
About 125 citizens attended the meeting and the levy passed by a margin of 96-17. It appeared that the levy had passed on a voice vote, but parliamentarian Mick Waldspurger asked for “yes” and “no” supporters to stand separately and count off.
The levy increased to $28,400,682 (general fund and debt service) is $2,164,412 more than the 2008-09 levy of $26,236,270.
The district’s Director of Financial Service Tim Erickson said the major shortfall came from a decrease in state aids for the coming year.
“State aids have increased an average of $1.9 million for the past four years,” Erickson said. “It is estimated that we will lose $2.7 million as compared to 2008-09.”
By taking away the average increase and adding the cut, Erickson figured the gap represents a $4.6 million cut when both changes are taken into consideration.
The district did cut expenses for the 2009-10 school year, cutting $2.35 million from the budget.
The levy results in a mill rate of 7.82, or an increase of just over 11 percent.
“Without the district cuts, the mill rate would have jumped more than 20 percent,” Erickson said. He estimated that under the levy that passed, the average increase on a $200,000 home would be about $156.
The budget will not be finalized until the state certifies it in October. Also still undetermined is a board request of all staff (including teachers) to take a salary freeze. There has been little progress on the request — the budget does include $1.3 million for potential wage increases.
Fourteen citizens spoke at the meeting. Comments ranged from glowing support of the district, unhappiness with the proposed budget, teacher union negotiations, district health insurance, and more.
“An increase of 8.5 percent is too much,” said Steve Hermsen. “Nearly 100 people have filed bankruptcy in the city of Hudson since Jan. 1. You (the board) have not done your work.”
Former board member Priscilla Wyeth said the district has done what it can to keep costs low.
“We should spend more time bragging about our achievements – but there comes a time when we can’t enjoy something for nothing.”
Curt Weese and Tom Cincotta questioned the district’s use of WEAC health insurance.
“The teachers and administration have incredible programs,” Weese said. “WEAC is holding taxpayers hostage.”
Cincotta asked if the district could not get quotes from other insurance providers.
“The contract does not allow for negotiations with other providers,” said Erickson. Board president Dan Tjornehoj said the board cannot talk about any union negotiations, be it salary or insurance.
“The board has asked for a salary freeze and we stand by that request,” Tjornehoj said.
The city of Hudson, a much smaller employer than the school district, recently switched to a private insurance provider and saved $400,000.
Nancy Gilland said a $156 increase in taxes is a small price to pay for the great education offered in Hudson schools. She said her children were all well educated and doing very well in college.
Among the citizens speaking at the meeting were Roy Sjoberg, Steve Hermsen, Curt Weese, Priscilla Wyeth, Steve Nielsen, Brian Steinwagner, Tom Cincotta, Jeff Tersteeg, Nancy Donovan, Brent Worrell, Bob Setzer, Greg Sarno, Tammy McKibbon and Nancy Gilland.
For additional coverage of the school boards's annual meeting, please see the Sept. 17 print edition of the Hudson Star-Observer.