Long-term Facility Maintenance and Operational Budget Remain A Challenge
On November 1, 2022, the Board of Education hosted a community meeting to seek input on Elementary Facilities Planning. Approximately three hundred (300) community members came to learn about potential options and financial considerations. The community was presented with ten (10) long-term facility maintenance options. These options included variations of maintaining all six elementary schools, closing two elementary schools, and reconfiguring grade levels that moved 5th grade to the Middle School and 8th grade to the High School.
Based on community feedback, the Board of Education decided they would not close any elementary schools at this time. Many in the community believed additional time was needed to see if the enrollment projections presented by UW-Madison Applied Population Laboratory would continue to trend downward. For many years, it has been the experience of the Hudson School District to have growing student enrollment. It is a significant shift in thinking to see the enrollment numbers trending down or, at best, holding steady. The combination of declining student enrollment, capital maintenance needs, and state aid that has not kept up with inflation has forced the Board of Education to discuss a potential capital and recurring operational levy increase referendum.
The School District has worked with Baird financial services to review budget projections based on enrollment and general assumptions related to various state aid scenarios. Depending on these general assumptions, the School District would likely see a budget deficit ranging from $2.6 million – $3.6 million in 2023-2024. Extending these assumptions to 2026-2027, the School District could face a budget shortage as high as $9.4 million.
The challenge of long-term maintenance needs, operational budget shortfalls, and declining student enrollment are not unique to Hudson. That said, Hudson is uniquely positioned to address this challenge with its strong financial footing. Unlike some school districts that need to rely on short-term borrowing or who have no room left other than to cut staff and programs, Hudson is financially secure. We will continue to engage the community in planning the next steps. The Board of Education will need to decide before the end of January 2023 if they plan to bring an operational levy increase and or capital maintenance referendum vote to the community on April 4, 2023. You can follow the Board’s discussions on long-term maintenance by clicking on the ELEMENTARY FACILITIES tab on our School District website, hudsonraiders.org.
As we close out the calendar year and head into Winter Break, I wish you peace, wonder, and joy. Take time to slow down and create memories with family and friends.
Nick Ouellette, PhD