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Hen Hud Stays Within Tax Cap, 33 Layoffs Possible

MONTROSE, N.Y. – The Hendrick Hudson Board of Education passed a controversial budget Wednesday evening, which meets New York State’s tax cap, but could cut as many as 33 staff positions. District officials say if the district’s teachers union does not accept a zero base salary increase in ongoing contract negotiations, all the positions will have to be cut.

“The bottom line is dollars, and dollars save positions,” said Superintendent Daniel McCann. McCann said if teachers accept no salary increase, the administration could definitely save six teachers and one assistant principal at the high school, known as “level two reductions.”

McCann said he would look for additional savings to spare some of 26 positions still on the chopping block. The district and the union have been in negotiations for more than a year and their next meeting is scheduled for April 23.

The budget approved by the board increased the tax levy by 1.06 percent, the maximum possible to stay under the tax levy cap. Due to a complex formula provided by the state, the levy is actually lower than 2 percent.

The proposed budget will increase the tax rate in the Town of Cortlandt to $962.40 per $1,000 of assessed home value, an increase of $13.76. The total school tax bill for a home assessed at $7,700, about $440,000 market value, will be $7,411.

In the City of Peekskill, which accounts for a small portion of the district’s tax levy, the rate will decrease $9.50, because of a change in the equalization rate. Peekskill homeowners with the same assessed value, market value of $220,000, will see a decrease of $73 from an average bill of $483.79 in 2012-2013.

Teachers and members of the public who attended the Wednesday meeting expressed frustration to board members that other savings couldn’t be found.

“This is very disheartening to me because it feels like you’re shredding the elementary schools,” said Debra Santucci.

During the meeting, some members of the public suggested overriding the cap, which the board said would cost the average taxpayer an additional $106 annually. When one member of the public suggested some taxpayers couldn’t handle this increase, board member Carson Jacobs said, “I’ll give him $106 out of my pocket.” Jacobs was the only board member to oppose the budget adoption.

Board members declined to override the cap, saying the message from the bond defeat was “loud and clear.”

One of the district's biggest concerns is if the budget fails twice, the district will go to a contingency budget, which mandates a zero dollar increase year-to-year, effectively causing more cuts.

Janine Hafemann, a third-grade teacher at Frank G. Lindsey Elementary School, held back tears as she said, “I’m devastated about my job.” Hafemann has worked at the district since 2006.

The budget vote on May 15 will also include two bonds proposals. If approved, one bond would fund repairing roofs at Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School and Hendrick Hudson High School, for $500,000, costing the average Cortlandt taxpayer $9.47 per year.

The second bond would fund the purchase of school bus vehicles, including one Suburban SUV and three dual rear wheel vans, one equipped for wheelchairs. The bond is set to cost $217,000, or $7.93 per year for the average Cortlandt taxpayer.