Hamburg budgeting conservatively

The main topic of discussion at the April 9 Hamburg Area school directors meeting was the budget for the 2018-19 school year which school directors will vote on in May and June.

That budget currently reflects a deficit of $1,298,000, according to Michele Zimmerman, business manager.

“We budgeted conservatively and I don’t expect us to end (at that amount),” Zimmerman said.

As an example, the budget for the 2016-17 school year showed a deficit of $572,000 when the budget was approved, but finished with a $1.1 million surplus at the end of that 12-month period.

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The current budget had a $1,493,000 deficit when approved and Zimmerman projects finishing the year in July at about a $250,000 deficit.

One of the fastest growing areas in the budget is special education which causes additional dollars to be allotted.

The addition of one student with special needs can greatly increase costs to the district, said Superintendent Richard Mextorf.

“We’re going to do what’s right for the child,” Mextorf said. “I’d rather ask for more dollars in the budget now, then come back to (the board) later asking for more money.”

The 2018-19 budget totals $42,513,016 and includes a .25 mill increase which equals about $25 for a property assessed at $100,000.

“About 88 percent of the budget is comprised of fixed costs,” Zimmerman said. “That includes salary, benefits, debt, utilities, charter schools and some special ed.”

Approximately $5.1 million are not fixed costs.

Some areas where non-fixed funds have been allocated include: technology (iPads, chromebooks), musical instruments for elementary and middle school, building maintenance, virtual reality head sets, intercom at Tilden Elementary and for English as a second language learners, said Zimmerman.

School director Todd Hummel opposed a tax increase.

“Is there a priority list,” Hummel asked. “We need to look at what we can afford. I’m behind teaching the whole child.

“I cannot vote for a budget that increases taxes again.”

“I’ll tell you my bias,” Mextorf said. “Put money into classrooms first, defer maintenance. It’s a balancing act. We’re giving you a worst case scenario.

“Historically, it hasn’t turned out that way.”

The next meeting of school directors is Monday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the James A. Gilmartin Community Room.