Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District Faces Budget Problems


Scott Janes

The Hamilton-Wenham School Committee and members of school administration hear comments from community members on the school budget. From Left to Right: Gene Lee, Michelle Horgan, David Polito, Michelle Bailey, Julie Kukenberger, Vincent Leone, Stacey Metternick, and Peter Wolczik. Not pictured but present: Tai Pryjma.

Hamilton Wenham Regional School District is looking to raise the budget by 8.57% for fiscal year 2021 (FY21), causing significant uproar in the community concerning tax raises and extra funding needed for the schools.

The budget overview, released and approved by the School Committee on January 8, 2020, and updated on February 12th, 2020, will use the 8.57% increase to maintain “level service” in the schools, or what is needed in order to maintain the schools at the standard they already at. In this budget, about 60% will be used to maintain teacher salaries; 13% will be fixed charges, including insurance; 12% will be out of district tuitions; 6% will be operations and maintenance; another 6% will be transportation, athletics, and other activities; 4% will be for materials; and the final 1% will be administrative expenses.

Superintendent Kukenberger said, “One of our goals this year was to make sure that we had a needs based, student centered budget, and we believe that this budget is very much that.”

Interim Superintendent Kukenberger, along with the HWRSD Leadership Team have created five different versions of “level service,” the most basic of which is maintaining the same level of support as last year. Each level adds another crucial portion to the school budget that are high priority issues moving into next year, based upon what administrators from each school and different services deemed essential for operation.

On February 12th, 2020 the school board approved the 8.57 percent increase in the fiscal year 2021 budget, raising the school’s budget to $31.675 million. Within this budget, Hamilton will be paying $20.492 million and Wenham will be paying $11.447 million. This includes a $958,000 capital budget that will be separate from the traditional school budget and will be used for one-time costs like infrastructure improvement and facility maintenance. The towns will each vote regarding the budget on April 4th. For more information, the district has provided documentation of the budget process on their website.