Hamburg Area school directors received a first review of the 2014-15 preliminary budget, which totals $37.38 million and contains about a $1.3 million deficit on Dec. 16.
Business Manager Michele Zimmerman emphasized that the first review provides an early look at budget numbers which can change significantly during the process before its approval in June 2014.
By comparison, the first review of the 2013-14 budget showed a $37.1 million budget with a $384,489 deficit. When approved that budget totaled $36.83 million and contained a 1 percent tax increase.
The district has maintained a 1 percent tax increase for the past five years.
The biggest drivers on the expenditure side of the budget are increases in: contractual salary ($400,000), special education ($330,000), retirement contributions ($250,000 net) and medical insurance rates ($200,000), according to Zimmerman.
'I'll have more detailed numbers for the January meeting,' Zimmerman said.
On the revenue side of the ledger Zimmerman was conservative and made the assumption that state and special education subsidies would remain flat.
'At this time we don't know what we'll receive from the state,' Zimmerman said.
In other news, school directors voted to reject a proposal to include Mandarin Chinese as part of the 2014 program of studies at the high school.
The proposal was presented to the directors in November by Dr. Elizabeth Lambi, director of curriculum and instruction.
The cost to the district would have been $4,500 for up to 20 students.
'I think that is $4,500 that we don't need to spend,' said school director Andrew Raugh, who made the motion to remove the proposal.
In other news, Dr. Lambi presented an updated Pennsylvania School Performance Profile for the district.
Based on a score of 100 with an additional seven points obtainable as extra credit, the middle school had the highest score in the district at 89.7, followed by Perry Elementary (87.1), Tilden Elementary (82.8) and the high school (71.4).
The middle school and the elementary schools showed significant growth, but need to improve in writing, according to Dr. Lambi.
The high school did not show similar growth.
'We're not happy with (the score) and we are at the low end (in the county) quite frankly,' Dr. Lambi said. 'We're not satisfied. We have a responsibility not only to the tenth- and eleventh-graders, but to the ninth-graders who must pass the (Keystone) exams to graduate.'
In an effort to improve scores by the end of the year, High School Principal Chris Spohn said that 'we're going to teach the test for awhile' before taking a long-term approach.
The next meeting of school directors is Monday, Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the James A. Gilmartin Community Room.
School directors Natalie Snow and Todd Hummel were absent.