Hendrick Hudson School District officials have taken several steps to try to ensure fiscal stability after the Indian Point nuclear power plants close in less than two years.
An audit of the district’s finances conducted by the state comptroller’s office for the period between July 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018 concluded Hendrick Hudson should “update the multi-year financial plan to consider past trends” and “consider more immediate cost saving measures to ensure fiscal stability.” Results of the audit were not released by the state until July 3 of this year.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Hochreiter said recently “a great deal has changed” since the audit took place.
“In short, we believe we have already implemented initiatives to respond to the Comptroller’s Key Findings and have a plan to discuss future cost savings measures when the Cost Analysis is complete and we have the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate and discuss the recommendations with our community,” Hochreiter stated.
Since the news broke in 2017 that Entergy was shutting down Indian Point, Hochreiter said the district has increased its fund balance by $5 million to approximately $12 million to help offset large property tax increases in the future.
“When we received notice of Indian Point closing, we were poised to lose $60.5 million in PILOT revenue over a four-year period (2021-2022 to 2024-2025). To recover that revenue via taxes alone, we would raise taxes on average 13% per year, every year, for that four-year period,” Hochreiter explained. “That 13% projection from January 2017 has been reduced to an average of 5.46% over the exact same four-year period. Had we acted on ‘immediate cost savings’ in 2017 we could have made unnecessary and painful reductions based on what we knew in January 2017 and not what we know now.”
Last fall, the district hired an independent group to advise officials on potential savings. The district notified parents in May of the motive and status of the Cost Analysis from the consultant.
“When Indian Point announced its impending closure in 2017, the community was understandably shocked and concerned about the future of the district’s financial condition,” the email to parents stated. “The district immediately commenced advocacy efforts. We knew advocacy alone was not sufficient and we had to look at our expenses in light of reduced revenues.”
Hochreiter also addressed several rumors circulating in the community, stressing the Cost Analysis has not been completed and remains “a work in progress.”
He continued, “No decision regarding the closing or redistricting of any schools has been made. No decisions regarding programming at either the middle school or the high school have been made.”
“Any suggestion that these decisions have been predetermined are not only false, but also misleading,” Hochreiter said.