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Looming cuts prompt unprecedented Hamburg school meeting

Nine teachers would be cut, but kindergarten and pre-K are safe for now in the Hamburg Central School District as the School Board tries to pare the budget.

Modified sports are in jeopardy, three counselor positions and three teacher aides would be axed from the budget, but clubs and AP courses would remain.

Those are some of the possible pluses and minuses as the district grapples with a $2.3 million budget gap and School Board members are looking at possible reductions in non-mandated programs.

As potential cuts start to hit home, a high school teacher suggested that representatives of the Hamburg Teachers Association, the Parent Teacher Student Association, the superintendent and the School Board meet to seek more state aid.

That meeting, which members of the district say is unprecedented, will take place at 6 p.m. today. Representatives of other unions in the district also have been invited.

The group hopes to come up with an action plan to press state legislators to return aid that was taken from districts in the form of a “gap elimination adjustment.” The adjustment for Hamburg amounts to $2.5 million this year, enough to avoid layoffs and program cuts if the money is restored.

“It’s important that we all meet and pull the rope in the same direction,” Technology Teacher Michael A. Damico said.

They’ve been through tough budgets before in Hamburg, with layoffs in 2010 and again in 2012. And before the finger-pointing starts, Damico said he wanted all parties looking to Albany for the fix.

“We’re going to tell everybody this is no one’s fault but the state,” he said.

He said the groups also are planning a parent information meeting sometime this week called “No parent left behind.”

School Board President David Yoviene said at least four board members will be at tonight’s meeting, which has not been publicized as an official meeting of the board. Four members would constitute a quorum. He said the district checked with its attorney, which said the board could legally attend.

The board has scheduled another budget session at 6:30 p.m. April 2, and is hoping to have firm state aid figures, since the state budget is supposed to be adopted by April 1.

Members by then also will know how many teachers and staff are taking the retirement incentive. Two teachers and four staff members had signed up by last week.

Board members went through a list of more than $3 million in possible cuts last week, and they identified about $1.2 million in reductions. They decided to keep staffing that would allow the district to keep the Finance Academy.

Some cuts the board did decide to pursue include reducing the high school assistant principal from a 12-month position to 10 months, instituting a four-day work week in the summer and having the School Board go paperless.

The board wants to revisit the sports budget, which totals $524,845, and is looking to cut $82,000 from it. That is enough to fund modified sports, but it’s not known if the cuts would all come from the modified program.

“It’s just terrible,” Yoviene said of all of the cuts,