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July 20, 2009

School Board approves budget for second time
For the second time in two months the Hamilton School Board approved a budget for the 2009-10 school year. The unusual act of revising the budget was expected in May because school districts did not have enough information from state lawmakers about what they could expect in state aid.

The School Board approved a $48.5 million budget July 20 that reflects a 2.78 percent increase in spending. The original budget passed in May needed to be trimmed $322,169 to meet a new state revenue cap that was later established.

The district will see a 3.04 percent decrease in state aid from last year, which will lead to a 5.78 percent in the local tax levy. The tax levy might have been higher if the district’s fund balance had not been used to reduce the debt service levy by $200,000. One consolation for Hamilton officials is that it could have been worse. Neighboring school districts will see their state aid drop as much as 15 percent.

District residents can expect a $9.52 mill rate when their tax bills arrive next December – which equates to $952 for each $100,000 of property value they own. The rate is up 2.5 percent from last year.

Despite the lack of information in May, the board needed to pass a budget so that the district could operate summer school and purchase time-sensitive material during the summer.

Open Enrollment waiting list accepted
The unpredictable financial picture has the district expanding the number of seats available to students through the Open Enrollment Program. This year the School Board accepted an additional 59 nondistrict students on the Open Enrollment waiting list.

The Open Enrollment students will be evenly placed in classrooms throughout the district except at Woodside Elementary School where space is not available. Applicant families will be notified beginning July 21, but school officials doubt that all 59 students will be available to enroll. Some who were not accepted earlier made commitments to attend other school districts. Educational Services Director John Roubik predicted that about 30-40 might actually enroll.

Pre-algebra course gets approval
When school staff identified that about 22 incoming freshmen were likely to fail algebra when they came to the high school, they decided to create a new course to address the students’ immediate needs. School Board members adopted a new pre-algebra course and textbooks to intervene with the students.

Instructional Services Supervisor Robert Scott, Ph.D., said the measure should be seen as a patch to move the students along while a more systematic approach is needed. That may be coming as a revised seventh grade mathematics curriculum will be implemented this year and an eighth-grade pre-algebra curriculum in 2010-11. Scott predicted that the new high school course will offer valuable information for the eighth grade implementation next year.

Initial stimulus spending gets started
More details about federal special education stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are beginning to emerge. Special Services Supervisor Mardi Freeman provided more details about how the district will be able to use $900,000 for special education services.

The funds, which are to be used by Sept. 30, 2011, and come with multiple levels of accountability and requirements. For example, if the district uses 35-50 percent of the allocation to reduce special education costs, it must ensure that the same level of services continues after the federal funds are gone. In additional approximately $50,000 must be allocated to serve children whose parents placed them in private schools.

Among the initial expenditures, Freeman reported that the special education funds will be used to pay tuition for students who attend Fairview South, purchase a reading improvement program for high school special education students, hire a part-time transition coordinator, contract additional days with an autism consultant, buy assistive technology and provide employment transition services. In addition, Freeman said she is talking to two elementary principals about providing specialized training for staff.

Personnel news
In personnel business, the School Board:

  • accepted the resignations of Maple Avenue Title I paraprofessional Marney Petermann, Lannon special services paraprofessional Tracey Jones and Hamilton special services paraprofessional Sally Zoellick;
  • appointed Amanda Brayman as the Marcy fourth grade replacement teacher and Colleen Engel as the Woodside special services paraprofessional; and
  • odified the contracts of Lannon speech pathologist Kathleen Voss-Schwartz from 60 to 80 percent and Maple-Marcy-Hamilton physical education teacher Jennifer Reuter from 90 to 100 percent.