One of two school districts in Fremont County looking to merge this winter because of financial difficulties is overspending more than initially expected. The Daily NonPareil says the Hamburg Community School District spent about $450,000 more last fiscal year than it was allowed to under state law, according to an estimate shared by Superintendent Terry Kenealy on Aug. 18th.
Iowa controls the maximum amount of spending by public school districts to keep spending equitable, so neighboring districts don’t spend dramatically different amounts of money per pupil. Districts that cannot stay under spending limit – referred to as having “negative unspent budget authority” by school officials – are forced to cut budgets, consolidate or face being dissolved.
Kenealy said Hamburg’s overspending may be adjusted but will remain close to the current estimate. Hamburg’s excess spending climbed from an original estimate of about $300,000 earlier this year. Both Hamburg and the Farragut Community School District, its proposed partner for consolidation, have to go before the Iowa Department of Education School Budget Review Committee in mid-December to present a plan to address overspending. Hamburg’s deficit in fiscal year 2013 was $46,350, according to the Iowan Department of Management. Farragut’s deficit for 2013 was $511,482.
The districts successfully circulated a petition last month to hold a special election in December to reorganize the districts, which would increase their shared authority and cut costs to address the budget restrictions. The Green Hills Area Education Agency will hold a hearing on the proposal on Sept. 24, which will determine whether the merger goes on the Dec. 2nd ballot.
The Hamburg and Farragut school boards will hold a joint meeting Sept. 10 with Jeff Berger, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education, and Amy Williamson, the chief of the department’s bureau of school improvement, to review findings from site visits, which will include an update on the districts’ financial situations.
The districts jointly operate a middle school in Hamburg and a high school in Farragut, both of which carry the Nishabotna name, but have separate elementary schools, superintendents and school boards. If they reorganize, they will create the Nishabotna Community School District.