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Hamburg School District facing large budget gap for 2013-14

Initial fiscal planning for the 2013-14 academic year indicates a roughly $4.75 million budget gap facing the Hamburg Central School District, a disparity school officials are hoping to close mainly through means other than program or staff cuts.

A presentation including an initial outline of the 2013-14 district budget was held at Tuesday’s (December 4) budget work session at Hamburg Middle School, with Superintendent of Schools Steven A. Achramovitch and Director of Administrative Services Barbara Sporyz primarily commenting on outlined financial figures.

It was stated that early expectations for 2013-14 indicate an overall expenditure budget of $61,593,704, including a necessary tax levy amount of $36,721,596. Those amounts, comparable in the current school year, are listed at (overall expenditure of) $56,597,957 and (tax levy of) $31,801,349. Additionally, state aid is initially projected to remain the same at $19,458,208, while “other” funds are slated to slightly increase, from $5,338,400 to $5,413,900. Sales tax monies are expected to decrease by $50,000, from $3,600,000 to $3,550,000; while federal aid funds are projected to remain the same, at $50,000.

Preliminary tax cap levy calculations indicate a limit of $31,899,500, with the addition of $72,000 in pension expenditures above the 2 percent cap bringing the total levy at $31,971,500. Thus, a gap of $4,750,096- between the expected, budgeted tax levy amount of $36,721,596 and the aforementioned initial tax cap calculation of $31,971,500 - is facing the district, with a couple of modifications offered by officials as possible solutions to fill the difference. Level 1 modifications were defined as being enrollment driven and not impacting programs or services; while level 2 modifications indicate changes driven by program and service needs; and Level 3 being reductions that are brought on by expenditure increases and revenue limitations. It was stressed that defining exact tax levy estimates and state aid amounts have yet to be determined and that initially presented financial amounts typically change as the budget process moves forward. Listed strategies in closing the listed gap include utilizing the district’s fund balance, increasing the tax levy and/or reducing expenditures.

It was acknowledged by Achramovitch that deciding on how to fill the budget gap will not be easy for district officials.

“It’ll take some pretty heavy discussion,” Achramovitch said. “We have some difficult decisions to make. The gap is significant. We have to determine how much we raise the tax levy versus how much we take away from programs.”

Examining a possible modification of programs and costs associated with BOCES – with a noted cost increase projected at 3 percent for 2013-14 in that area – was mentioned as a worthwhile action. Another solution could include eliminating three full time equivalent staffing positions at the elementary school level, which would reduce total staffing at the four elementary schools from 75 to 72, due to a decline in student enrollment in grades K-5. Such a reduction was noted as hypothetically saving the district about $180,000. It was added by Sporyz that steadily maintained enrollment at the middle and high school levels would not create a need for staff reductions at those buildings. The district’s elementary schools exist at Armor, Boston Valley, Charlotte Avenue and Union Pleasant.

The district’s previous use of allocated fund balance for 2011-12, 2010-11 and 2009-10, amounts defined as monies designated to offset the property tax levy, include $750,000; $1,700,000; and $1,700,000. Unemployment reserves usage jumped to $224,052 in 2011-12 from $24,041 and $86,470 the previous two years. Additionally, the district’s employee retirement system reserves were listed at $193,000 in 2011-12 while not incorporating any such funds in 2010-11 and 2009-10. Unallocated fund balance reserves were listed at $778,283 in 2011-12, compared to $703,710 in 2010-11 and $2,175,941 in 2009-10.

Notable increases for 2013-14 facing the district include $3,238,236 in salaries, with a hike of $1,250,766 in teacher and employee retirement costs; $962,517 (or 12.7 percent) in special education costs; $507,977 in non-instructional support staff salaries; and $276,743 in health insurance premium increases. Special education increases were stated as being represented by hikes of $800,000 in private school tuition of Individualized Education Plan (IEP) district students attending a pair of area group homes; and $80,000 in BOCES tuition.

A listed trend of overall declining New York State aid was acknowledged by district officials Tuesday. Also stated was the fact that Federal Stimulus and Jobs Funds have expired, with no expected additional funding of such items. The Hamburg School District is additionally noted as not being eligible to receive to substantial portion of federal and state grants in relation to poverty.

In another item Tuesday, district officials expressed satisfaction with an initiative explained as being a general examination into employee payroll, as part of a scope of Hamburg’s internal audit. It was stated by Internal Auditor Louann Laurito-Bahgat, that the examination will include a random look into 50 district employees to verify their payment as being correct and within the parameters of New York State contract guidelines, to ensure that there are no excess benefits as being received and that paperwork is being properly marked. Such exploration was explained by Laurito-Bahgat as also being a procedure to further prevent liability.

Board President Dr. Joan Calkins said she’s looking forward to seeing results from the initiative.

The next meeting of the Hamburg Central School Board will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec.11 in the Hamburg Middle School cafeteria.


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