The Hamilton Board of Selectmen has unanimously backed a 2012 school budget that is $500,000 less than $27.15 million budget approved by the School Committee.
The move means that the Hamilton board joins its counterparts in Wenham in supporting a so-called “giveback” of $500,000 so that Town Meeting in both towns will be presented with a school budget from Selectmen that is $500,000 less than the .
At issue is how much money goes in to the school’s “E and D fund” – meaning excess and deficiency fund, essentially a school district reserve account. A majority of the School Committee has voted to support the schools keeping the money in case of unexpected expenses in the coming year. Selectmen in both towns support a “giveback” to the towns.
The Hamilton board had already voted in late March to support a school budget that was $350,000 less than the School Committee’s budget. Monday’s vote changed that position to now support a $500,000 so-called “giveback.”
The board’s vote backed a vote earlier in the night by the Finance Committee to also support spending $15.3 million towards the regional school district in 2012 - a number that accounts for Hamilton's share of a $500,0000 "giveback."
Originally, the town government in both towns had asked the school district to present a budget that asked for no more money from the towns in 2012 than was paid in 2011.
But Finance Committee Chairman John McWane said the Finance Committee later backed a school budget that asked for a smaller contribution to the schools than last year after new budget information emerged.
Some of the new information McWane cited:
- This year’s budget is expected to be under spent by about $1 million.
- $350,000 in expenses were included in this year’s budget to cover unemployment costs for layoffs but no layoffs occurred
- Full-day kindergarten fess had been collected in a revolving account for several years but never withdrawn to cover kindergarten costs.
- State Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, told both Finance Committees last week that the school district can expect $120,000 more in state aid over last year.
The Hamilton FinComm made its recommendation after a where Hill delivered the state aid numbers.
“The general consensus was that (minus) $500,000 was probably more reasonable,” McWane said.
McWane also said that the School Committee hasn’t met since Hill announced the new state aid numbers.
“Their number may also change,” McWane said.
The School Committee could still vote to certify a school budget that is less than the one already approved, said Jennifer Scuteri, chairman of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen,.
Because the School Committee-approved budget goes on the Town Meeting warrant, the Selectmen actually voted against supporting Article 2 – the budget - because it includes a school budget that is higher than they budget the Selectmen support.
McWane said the Finance Committee supports the rest of the Hamilton budget.
“We do support the town portion of the town budget,” he said.
Selectman Marc Johnson said that if the School Committee had suggested that if it the $350,000 or $500,000 was included in the budget it would restore previous programs cuts or add programs, he could consider the higher budget.
“That’s not the case here,” he said.
All five board members each voiced support for the $500,000 giveback number. McWane's explanation about why the FinComm now supports a smaller school budget came after question from Selectman Bill Bowler. After hearing from McWane, Bowler said he supported the $500,000 "giveback" because it would not involve any program cuts.
The Hamilton-Wenham Budget Process Committee at 7 p.m. on Thursday night at .