Hannibal School Budget Nears Completion

Hannibal Board of Education members will vote next week to send to the voters a budget for 2012-13 that, for the first time in several years, doesn’t include cuts in jobs, programs or services.

The proposed $19.4 million budget got one last review at a brief workshop Wednesday night.  It uses $1.5 million from Hannibal’s dwindling rainy-day reserve fund and a 2% increase in the tax levy to avoid adding to cutbacks in academics, sports and arts.

There might have been cutbacks, if not for the state Legislature’s success in getting an extra $200 million in aid for schools.  The money was taken out of a $250 million fund Gov. Andrew Cuomo created for competitive grants for schools that enact efficiency programs.

The Legislature spread the money mainly to low-wealth, high-need districts like Hannibal, bringing a measure of fairness to a funding system that a court has found gives too little to the poorest districts and too much to the richest.

The extra aid gives Hannibal a chance to fix a problem, said Interim Superintendent Pete Backus.  He explained that academic intervention services (AIS) for students in grades 7 and 8 are not adequate.

AIS programs provide extra help for students who fall below standards on the state’s math and English Language Arts exams.  They’re required by the state.

“We have a gap that needs to be filled,” Backus said, noting that all other grades had adequate AIS programs.

He recommended to the board that they use $60,000 of the extra state aid to hire two part-time AIS teachers, one each for math and English.  He said the rest should go into the district’s rainy-day fund, where it will likely be needed next year.

The tax levy increase of 2% is below the state’s tax cap limit.

Backus said that the average home in Hannibal, assessed at about $72,000, would see a tax increase of $19.65 if voters approve the budget in May.

Board members had no comment on the budget during the meeting.  They’ll meet next Wednesday to approve the budget.

The district will hold a public hearing on the budget on May 7 at 6:30 p.m.  The public’s vote happens the following week, May 15, on the statewide school budget voting day.

A line-by-line copy of the school budget will be available in the offices of each school a week before the hearing.