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Public Can Speak on Proposed $28.7 Million '13 School Budget on Thursday NIght

A public hearing on the fiscal 2013 Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District budget is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Buker Elementary School.

A proposed $28.7 million school budget for 2013 is now under consideration by the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School Committee, with a chance for the public to have a say coming up on Thursday night.

The so-called superintendent’s budget was presented to the School Committee last Thursday and the Boards of Selectmen plus the Finance Advisory Committees from both towns . A public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday in the multi-purpose room at .

A final vote on the budget by the School Committee is planned by March 20. A complete budget timeline is attached to this story as a PDF.

Interim Superintendent Peter Gray proposes a fiscal 2013 budget of $28.7 million, up from the fiscal 2012 budget of $27.6 million. Gray forecasts that the fiscal 2012 budget will come in $280,000 under budget.

While the proposed spending is going up by about 4 percent, Gray's proposed budget would not ask for an increase in funding from the towns.

One of the largest budgets increases comes from salaries – from an estimated $17.5 million in spending in 2012 to $18.8 million in 2013.

“The bulk of what we do here is very labor intensive,” Gray said.

The salary increase comes from a 1 percent cost of living increase totaling $280,502, a one time 1 percent bonus of $180,284 and raises from employees moving up on a column or step, totaling $566,484.

Gray has also proposed two new information technology technicians, to be paid $75,000 each, and a human resources manager, who would be paid $60,000. The 2013 budget also includes funding a $170,000 salary for a new superintendent, who is planned to come on board this summer.

The high school principal’s salary will also go up by $55,000, since Interim John Hughes, who retired from Natick, . He had be working at an artificially low salary level because of his retirement. The budget also includes a reduction of $400,000 in spending on special education staff, as estimated by Student Service Director Kathy Harris.

Gray said he is aware of concern about an increase in staff headcount, but said more staff is needed to help advance the school district's technology. A new HR manager would help the district comply with a new teacher evaluation system that will go into place on Sept. 1, something that Gray calls a “comprehensive and labor intensive endeavor.”

The budget also includes a 46 percent increase in routine maintenance spending to 2 percent of the budget, from $538,000 to $790,000.

The proposed budget also includes establishing a $100,000 special education emergency fund, $31,000 for an increase in the bus contract and $30,000 to conduct a search for a new superintendent.

To balance the budget, and avoid an increase in the amount that would be required from the towns, Gray proposes using $692,672 from the excess and deficiency account, essentially a fund balance from the previous year. Also, an accumulation of $461,236 in the kindergarten revolving fund will be transferred to the general fund to cover kindergarten costs.

Gray has also asked the School Committee to consider spending $38,000 to reduce sports user fees, paying to make physical upgrades at Buker Elementary School and to make both building compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and hiring a development officer to seek grants and donations. None of those costs are included in Gray's proposed budget.

Thursday night's public hearing at Buker begins at 6:30 p.m.

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