Hamburg School Board reviews 2018-19 budget, vows to live within means

It may be early in the school year, but the Hamburg Area School Board started discussing the 2018-19 budget at its meeting on Oct. 9.

Business Manager Michele Zimmerman presented the budget calendar and a timeline for the process.

On Jan. 22, school directors will be asked to approve a budget resolution stating that the school district will live within its means and not increase taxes above the tax index of 3.1 percent, according to Zimmerman.

“Living within our means means no tax increases, no dipping into capital funds,” said school board member Todd Hummel. “I still intend to vote against (a plan) if there’s a tax increase or dipping into capital funds. Not voting for it.”

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School board members have raised property taxes by .25 mills or about $25 for nine consecutive years.

The district covered a $1,461,366 deficit in the current $42,004,489 spending plan by using money from its fund balance.

The biggest impact that can be made on the budget occurs through the natural attrition process when there are retirements or departures, said Superintendent Richard Mextorf.

“Our most important asset and our biggest expense are the people who work here,” Mextorf said. “When there’s a departure we ask two questions- Do we need to replace (the position) and does it always have to look as it’s looked?

“It may make people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t mean we don’t value people. It may mean we have to shuffle people or change some of the responsibilities.”

At the beginning of the school year the district replaced a retiring school nurse with two licensed practical nurses at the same cost.

This allowed the district to improve coverage in the district’s four buildings while not increasing costs.

“Saying ‘let’s cut everything five percent across the board’ is silly,” Mextorf said. “You almost can’t cut enough stuff to make it work. We want to be fiscally responsible and provide a quality education.”

In other news, school directors discussed playground improvements at Tilden Elementary Center.

“Surfacing at the Tilden playground was state of the art 10 years ago, but it needs attention,” Mextorf said. “It is not unsafe.”

The building committee is considering installing a wood carpet to replace the rubber mulch.

One of the problems with the current surface is that it’s messy and dirty and requires the kids to wash their hands after recess, said Mextorf.

The committee plans to meet with the Tilden Parent-Teacher Organization before finalizing plans and will come back to the board at a future meeting for approval, according to committee chair Brian Riegel.

If approved the resurfacing would most likely be done in June after the school year ends.

The next meeting of school directors is Monday, Oct. 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the high school.