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Hamburg School District could face further loss of state aid

With the loss of roughly $450,000 in state aid for 2012-13 represented in a still-hovering storm cloud of a failed Annual Professional Performance Review plan submission, Hamburg school officials are hoping to avoid what could be construed as a full-fledged financial monsoon, or the loss of an additional $2 million in state aid for 2013-14.

Such a predicament can be dodged if the district and the Hamburg Central Teachers Association agree upon an approved APPR to be submitted to the state Department of Education by Sept. 1.

An agreement between the two sides did not come to fruition before the previous Jan. 17 deadline, which resulted in the deduction of about $450,000 from the March pay period of state aid that had been budgeted by the district as part of its 2012-13 monies.

At the Feb. 12 board meeting, Director of Administrative Services Barbara Sporyz said the expected $2 million is represented in additional aid monies to the district from the state for the upcoming academic year.

The $450,000 in lost state aid was funding that accounted for the difference between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years.

According to Sporyz, the district is compensating for the loss of the state aid this academic year by implementing a “hybrid” solution of reducing spending and utilizing fund balance/reserve monies. It was further stated that it is not the intention of district officials to impose current, mid-year reductions of staff or student programs.

The district’s 2013-14 budget is slated to be adopted by the Hamburg Central School Board at its April 16 meeting. If an APPR agreement between the district and the HCTA is not reached by Sept. 1, the $2 million in state aid would not be recoverable, school officials said.

Board Vice President Thomas Flynn III said it is paramount for the district to not lose out on further financial assistance.

“Everyone needs to rise above our issues and do what’s right for the children of Hamburg,” said Flynn. “It’s our belief that we can work together, because we have the same goal, providing the best education for our children.”

Flynn further stated it is the hope of district officials that an APPR agreement will be approved by mid to late April, several months ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline.

District Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch said APPR parameters include student learning objectives through given assessments and curriculum, to go along with student achievement data gathering and reporting. Noted software systems that are being tested administratively include iObservation and a related application through iPad, items Achramovitch said are used to provide feedback to building administrators. The combined cost for the two items was set at approximately $20,000, which Achramovitch said will hopefully be purchased toward the end of this academic year to be used for 2013-14.

Hamburg was one of just a handful of state-wide districts that did not submit an approved APPR to NYSED by the January deadline. The HCTA had voted against the proposed APPR plan by roughly a 73-percent margin, which Board Member Sally Stephenson had viewed as an indication of distrust from the HCTA toward the superintendent and district officials.

“(The proposed APPR plan) was a win-win for Mr. Achramovitch and a lose-lose for the teachers,” said Stephenson, who had stated that she was not given a copy of related, revised APPR plan parameters until late into the submission process.

Board President Dr. Joan G. Calkins apologized to Stephenson for not being given a chance to view the APPR statement in a timely fashion, adding that it is in the best interest of district officials and the HCTA to move forward in a more united manner.

“There was hard work done on the part of both the teachers’ union and the negotiators,” Calkins said. “Our wish is to now move forward. It would be devastating for the $2 million to be lost next year.”

Stephenson made a motion during meeting for the arrangement of a follow-up meeting to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the administrative building, a session that would include school board members, HCTA members and others to gather to discuss the shortcomings of the failed APPR plan as presented to teachers in January. The resolution was defeated by a vote of 5-2, with only Stephenson and board member Holly Balaya casting “Yes” votes. Stephenson said it was her hope that such a meeting could be set up to establish understanding on all sides.

“The teachers are getting a bad rap,” said Stephenson. “We should let the HCTA explain their rationale as to why (the failed APPR plan) went down. They’re a very unhappy group right now.”

Flynn and other board members replied that it is best to for district officials and others to move ahead in the negotiation process, and not dwell on negative or ongoing troubles.

“We understand that issues need to be solved,” Flynn said. “We will address these through means as a school board. But to dissect what happened will drive a wedge between the board, the teachers and the union. We need to look forward.”

The board will hold a budget workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Sporyz outlined several budget parameters as part of the district’s ongoing fiscal planning, listing 2012-13 fund balance/reserves in the amounts of $778,282 for “unassigned,” non-allocated savings; $288,902 in debt service; $224,223 in unemployment; and $193,084 in employee retirement system related funds. Total fund balance/reserves for 2011-12 stood at $2,453,977, compared to $1,957,836 in 2012-13 and a projected $1,492,950 for 2013-14.

Revenue projections for 2013-14 currently stand at $34,739,226 for property tax and $3,770,000 for sales and other tax items, to go along with $21,380,578 in governor-amended state aid funding. Total revenues are slated at $61,593,704, with a tax levy limit of $31,856,580.

It was stated that district reserves and fund balance monies will partly be used to help close the existing budget gap. Staff is said to account for 70 percent of the district’s budget, as significant increases are slated for the areas of salary, pensions, health insurance, special education and debt service. Lesser hikes are projected for transportation, BOCES services and utilities.
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