HUDSON – The Elementary School Building Committee met Monday to determine how to move forward after the narrow defeat of a request to fund a feasibility study. As Chairman Patrick Davis noted Hudson is the first town ever to vote down funding for such a feasibility study.
The study would have provided outlines and estimates of the different ways Hudson could deal with its deteriorating school buildings, and the special town meeting article would have allowed the borrowing of $490,000 ($390,000 of which would be reimbursed by the New York School Building Authority). While a large majority of the voters approved the article, it wasn’t quite the two-thirds majority needed.
Committee members agreed that they should bring the issue forward at another town meeting, but they don’t want to do it too soon, as it would give the impression they’re trying to trick residents or force them to vote a certain way. They were encouraged, however, by the narrow margin of loss (only nine votes away from a two-thirds majority), and shared stories of supporters who didn’t attend town meeting because they were busy with Christmas preparations, because they aren’t registered to vote in town yet, because they believed they can’t vote because they don’t own property in town, or because they assumed the measure would pass without them.
The committee voted unanimously to authorize Superintendent Tari Thomas to draft a letter to the MSBA requesting an extension of the upcoming Jan. 5 deadline. The letter will ask for 90 days and will advise the MSBA that committee members will continue to do outreach and will try to encourage better town meeting attendance and voter registration.
While they felt that the best time for a vote like this was at an annual town meeting (held in June), they weren’t comfortable asking the MSBA for so much more time when they were only given 120 days to get community approval for the funds in the first place. In the end they decided to request 90 days, which, if the MSBA allows it, would give them until early March to do outreach. According to Town Administrator Diana Schindler, it is likely that another special town meeting will be held to approve a union contract in February or March.
There is no guarantee that the MSBA will grant Hudson the extension (since a town has never turned down a feasibility study before, the MSBA has never received such a request before), but the committee brainstormed ways to get more information out to the public anyway. They’d like to compile a more detailed list of all the repairs that have been made at the three school buildings, a list of the repairs that still need to be made, and a list of all the things the feasibility study would cover (many voters were upset that a study would cost nearly half a million dollars when a much smaller study done in 2006 cost only about $30,000 – but that study wasn’t done to MSBA specifications and it did not go into the level of detail that the proposed study would). They’d like to get more members on the committee, especially those who are not constrained by ties to the school or town. At the moment, Davis is just about the only member who can advocate for the study unhindered.
They’d also like to explain to the community how little they’re actually allowed to do because of legal restrictions related to campaign finance: they can’t send information home with students even though parents might want it, they can’t buy time on the radio to advertise town meeting, and the school committee can’t do such things either.
The letter is due into the MSBA by Thursday, Dec. 18.
The committee will meet again at Dexter Park School on Monday, Dec. 15, at 5:30 p.m.