Hamilton-Wenham Schools Call for 2.6% Increase in 2023 Budget

HAMILTON – That the Regional School District and Hamilton-Wenham School Committee have set their budget request for fiscal year 2023 at $ 34,235,536. This total, presented on December 16, is up $ 867,776 (2.6%) from the 2022 budget of $ 33,367,759.

In total, there are:

  • $ 33,650,261 for the operating budget, after compensation and revenues, an increase of $ 857,995 (2.6%) compared to $ 32,792,265 for fiscal year 2022
  • $ 585,275 for debt service, up $ 9,781 (1.7%) from $ 575,494 for fiscal 2022

These numbers are lower than the 3.9% increase presented at the Dec. 8 joint meeting by videoconference of the Hamilton and Wenham School Committee and Boards of Directors and Finance / Advisory Committees.

An example of the lowered estimates is the reduction in out-of-district tuition fees, typically for special education students. In November, it was estimated at $ 4,907,607, but is now at $ 4,359,090 due to the move of some departments in-house.

“Throughout the budget process, you will see slightly reconfigured numbers to reflect the priority areas that need to be addressed and to account for the actual numbers replacing the placeholders put in place to start the process,” explained David Polito, member of the school committee. “This is normal procedure. ”

“We have worked closely with the councils of both cities to develop our budget and we still have a long way to go,” said school superintendent Eric Tracy.

Some of the challenges facing the school department include:

  • $ 6 million in OPED liability (other post-employment benefits for retirees)
  • $ 630,000 of unfunded cost of living adjustments in FY2022 and new for FY2023
  • $ 60,000 in increased technical needs

The school committee plans to transfer $ 2 million out of the unspent $ 3.1 million known as E&D funds (surpluses and deficits) to balance the OPED trust. E&D funds are returned to cities but are recorded as revenue because the school committee requests that they be reallocated to the education budget.

“Cities will have to raise $ 3.1 million less to fill the budget,” said Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Administration Vincent Leone.

Leone, who is a member of the school committee, explained in his presentation to the joint meeting that $ 410,000 is a space reserved for the changes of stages and columns for the employees and an amount as yet undetermined for the maintenance of the facilities. .

“There are always installation problems,” he said of buildings that are 50 or 60 years old. “There are failures on the left and on the right. ”

Leone also said he believed transportation costs might increase due to the rising cost of gas.

Hamilton’s share of the budget is 65.4%, Wenham’s is 34.6%, a change of 1% due to Hamilton’s six-year increase in students and Wenham’s decline of 16 . “Spending $ 320,000 for Hamilton and away from Wenham. ”

This brings Hamilton’s total share, including operating budget and debt service, to $ 22,390,040, up $ 875,935 (4.13%) from $ 21,502,184 for the year. 2022. Wenham’s share is $ 11,642,990, down $ 20,080 (0.17%) from $ 11,865,575 in fiscal 2022.

John Pruellage, a member of Hamilton’s finance committee and council, called the school’s annual budget increases “unsustainable.”

Based on the Dec. 8 figures, Hamilton City Manager Joe Domelowicz pointed out that the city expects its revenues to increase by $ 1,266,196 and the requested school budget is 1,168. $ 460 (92%) of that. He also said annual increases averaged 5.4% for schools but only 3.4% for municipal government.

“You keep widening the gap,” Domelowicz said. “We will have to continue to negotiate this. There is a revenue problem for the city. You plan to exceed what we are able to collect.

Hamilton Finance Committee Chair / Advisor Christina Schenk Hargrove said, “We shouldn’t add costs we can’t afford,” to which school committee member Anna Siedzik replied: “I don’t think the district is asking for things that we are not asking for. need. If we can agree on something that we can all live with, we can sell it to the public and explain it to get the support we need. “

Wenham Select board member Diane Bucco said she “always takes charge”, while Hamilton Select board member Shawn Farrell said he “always tries to digest all the numbers “.

John McGrath, a member of Hamilton’s finance committee and advisory committee, offered to look at the school budget alongside city budgets to gain a better understanding.

“We have to worry about all of these budgets every time we do this,” McGrath said. “The selected boards of directors and finance / advisory committees need to be concerned with the general operations of the city. We need to look at other activities taking place in cities. The school committee is not focused on them. I would like to redraw history so that taxpayers can see it all. The money does not belong to the schools. It is up to the taxpayers. We have to be concerned about what we say to taxpayers, because that is where the ultimate responsibility lies.

“I appreciated the rigorous and important questions the boards asked about this proposed initial budget,” School Committee Chair Dana Allara said after the meeting. “This kind of open dialogue, genuine inquiry and conscientious questioning will improve transparency for all boards and help create the best possible budget for our community. I applaud the other boards for their willingness to ask tough questions and for taking the time to listen, digest and understand the specific and unique aspects of the FY23 budget. “