Hannibal Board Restores Phys Ed Position, Approves Budget For Public Vote

By Ryan Morden, contributing writer

HANNIBAL, NY – The Hannibal school board Wednesday night unanimously approved a budget for the next school year. It calls for $25,452,989 in spending, and requires 2.99% tax levy to plug an approx. $1.7m deficit.

It resembles the same budget the board rejected last week, with one slight tweak.

Instead of eliminating 10 entire teaching positions, this revised version restores a part-time P.E. teacher.  Last week, when board members decided to put off their decision on the budget, Superintendent of Schools Mike DiFabio said the phys ed staff had requested a meeting with him, hinting that they would say that cutting the position would drop the district below state standards for physical education.

The budget now heads to voters for approval on May 18.

Board member Linda Warrick voted against the proposed budget last week, saying she was hoping the state legislature would pass its budget and new money would trickle down to the district.

“I still believe that miracles can happen. I was hoping Albany would pass their budget,” said Warrick.

The unknown variable of exactly how much money will come from Albany frustrated many board members.

The state budget is three weeks overdue.

“If the governor would get his budget together, we could have a better handle on ours,” said board member Donna Ingersoll.

Hannibal relies heavily on state aid — it makes up 80% of its revenue.

“This is a moving target every day, we still don’t know what’s going to come out of Albany,” said school board president Dale Young.

If voters approve the current budget, it would eliminate 9 teaching jobs, a teaching assistant’s job, 3 part-time custodial jobs and a part-time typist’s job. It would cut deeply into academic programs such as the elementary Reading First program, which was credited with improving student skills.

It would cut into music and arts, but leave all school-funded sports programs intact. (Some JV sports are funded this year by the athletic booster club.)

However, district officials have said that what the district spends its budget on could change as needs change.

The feeling among most on the board and audience members was that the teachers union could have been more flexible and given up raises.  The board rejected an offer from the union that would have returned half of next year’s raise, a concession in line with what unions in other districts are doing, but would have extended the contract two years.

“We all need to work together from the top to the bottom to give kids a well rounded education,” said Meghan Welling, who works within the district as a teaching assistant.

She doesn’t blame those in the union, and says Hannibal has great teachers. She just criticizes the leadership at the top.

“I do feel like the teachers union should consult the teachers within the union and ask what they want and not decide for them,” said Welling.

Board member Mireille Watts says the grueling process was a lesson for the students who paid attention.

“The involvement of students in this negative time has given them an opportunity to sample the reality of life,” said Watts.

The school board members anticipate another budget shortfall next year.