HUDSON — Hudson school administrators are still facing down a $2.5 million funding gap for the reconstruction and renovation of Alvirne High School’s Career and Technical Education Center.
A last-ditch effort to secure a loan from the Alvirne Board of Trustees failed to pan out after a decision last week, forcing administrators to cut elements from the early phases of the project in the hopes of completing them in the next biennium.
Superintendent Larry Russell said the project is likely to be put on hiatus for eight months to a year as initial funding ($14.5 million from the new state budget and $8.25 million from a town-approved bond) dries up before the start of the next biennium.
He said the board wanted to help, but felt their hands were tied.
“I appreciate the support the board has given us in all aspects of CTE,” Russell said.
On Sept. 26, trustees met to discuss possibly loaning $900,000 to the school district to cover a shortage of funds projected by June 2021, according to Alvirne principal Steven Beals.
“After the request, the trustees made it clear that while we were in favor in principle of this loan, we would have to do our due diligence,” said board chair Elaine Brody. “We conferred with the Charitable Trust Unit of the Attorney General’s Office, and we were informed that the loan would not meet the criteria of some of the trust funds we manage and would be an inappropriate use for the others.”
The state Attorney General’s office Charitable Trusts Unit had previously ruled that only one of the handful of funds managed by the trustees — the Stedman Fund, which totalled about $1.9 million — could be used at the board’s discretion. But loaning out nearly half of that was deemed an imprudent investment that wasn’t consistent with the board’s fiduciary responsibility to safeguard their assets.
At issue was a lack of guarantee that the money would be paid back, Beals said, because there was no way to ensure the remaining $2.5 million needed would be in the next budget. Plus, trusts are usually grantors, not loan agents, he said.
Beals said they have to figure out some other way to keep the project afloat, but he doesn’t disagree with the board’s decision.
“I certainly think they made the most prudent decision based on the decision from the state,” Beals said.
Moving forward, Russell said they plan to postpone the purchases of some heavy equipment for the building trades, as well as furniture, and hold off on renovating some of the classrooms in the middle of the building to save the $2.5 million.
They hope to be able to return to those items if the money is in the next state budget.
In the meantime, Sen. Sharon Carson said she plans to submit legislation later this month that would earmark the $2.5 million for the school project if there is a surplus in the state coffers. Without the funds in this biennium, she said it will cost them more money in the long run.
“It’s not only costing them more money but they won’t be able to implement programs,” Carson said. “That will have an impact on students. … If we have the money, we should do this.”
Russell said he is working with Carson, other local lawmakers and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut to find a way to secure the funds, if not in this biennium, then perhaps secure a guarantee for the next biennium so they can plan accordingly.