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Hamburg closes budget gap, adopts fiscal plan to present to voters

HAMBURG — Hamburg Central School District officials generally agreed on a few things, heading into the annual May budget vote: the 2014 – 2015 fiscal plan is pretty fair for district taxpayers and maintains essential programs amid Gap Elimination Adjustment mandates and lack of general state aid.

During an April 9 budget work session, school board members voted to adopt the expenditure budget of $62,435,858, a proposition that will be presented to voters on Tuesday, May 20.

District officials credited the work of budget planning – particularly by Director of Administrative Services Barbara Sporyz – in eliminating what had been a financial shortfall of more than $2 million, a few weeks ago.

The appropriation of approximately $475,000 more from assigned fund balance reserves, up from $1,250,000 to a new total of $1,725,000, was said to cover remaining gaps.

Total revenues are $27,499,239, with state aid’s covering $20,718,004; sales tax, $3,650,000, miscellaneous, $613,035; Employee Retirement System/unemployment/debt service utilization, $500,0000 and other tax items/federal aid, $245,000.

The slated tax increase is 4.229 percent, or $1,417,525, with an overall district property tax levy of $34,936,619. The overall, budget-to-budget increase is 3.62 percent, or $2,185,258.

Board members voted 6-to-1 to adopt the budget, with Catherine Schrauth-Forcucci’s casting the dissenting vote, based on her stating that she believed she did not receive enough time to review the recent fiscal outline.

“Do district voters feel an hour and a half is enough [time] for a $62 million budget?” asked Schrauth-Forcucci, after saying that she received the outline late.

Position restorations to the budget from the board’s last budget workshop on April 2 included a 1.0 full time-equivalent elementary school health instructor; 0.5 FTE district counselor; 1.0 library media specialist; Spanish program teaching position and the statement that no layoffs among hall monitors will occur.

Reductions that will occur include: one district counselor; two retirements with one position unfilled in the music department; two reductions through retirements at the elementary teaching level; one teaching reduction in high school English Language Arts; abolishing a second-shift district groundskeeper position (attrition); 0.2 FTE teaching reduction in the high school business program; 0.4 FTE reduction in Latin program, equating to phasing out the middle school Latin program; reduction through retirement of 1.0 FTE French teacher, causing a restructuring of that language program; eliminating all assistant coaches in sports other than football and swimming; various monetary decreases for extracurricular clubs; restructuring the assistant high school principal position from 12 months to 10 months; not replacing a senior clerk-typist position at the Hamburg Administrative Building; reducing by 40 percent the summer hours of computer aides; restructuring into a four-day work week for summer staff; abolishing the 5:30 p.m. bus runs in transportation; implementing a rate change for substitute teachers; the board of education going paperless, with the implementation of Chromebooks®; restructuring Saturday detention to twice per month instead of weekly and abolishing intramurals.

Schrauth-Forcucci and fellow Board Member Holly Bolaya, as well as Vice President Sally Stephenson, asked for ways to find $20,000 to implement the district’s health science academy, an initiative that district officials are putting on hold, due to staffing limitations. It was reported that at least 60 students had expressed interest in joining the academy.

“We should find a way to get [the academy] in the budget,” Stephenson said, adding that this program “is a plus-plus for the community. It’s an all-around good situation.”

Board Member Thomas Flynn said that he is grateful the district was able to avoid cuts to the music program. Board President David Yoviene added that the fiscal plan for 2014 – 2015 is “an all-in budget.” District Superintendent Dr. Richard Jetter said that, although he believed Hamburg got low-balled with state aid received, the district has done everything in its power, to present a workable budget.

“We balanced reductions in fund balance, and we’re not decimating programs,” Jetter told The Sun. “I’m still not overall happy, but we did the best we could.”

Many in attendance applauded the board, after it was announced that officials were adopting the budget.

A public hearing regarding the budget will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6 at Union Pleasant Elementary School. The annual budget vote/school board election will take place between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on May 20 at Hamburg High School.

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