Hamilton Southeastern faces $30M deficit by 2017


It's located in one of the most affluent communities not just in the state but in the country. Still, the Hamilton Southeastern School District is searching for ways to head off a projected $30 million deficit.

"If this keeps going in terms of our income from the state and our growth of students, if we don't do something between now and 2017, we will be $30 million in the hole. That is not acceptable," said Superintendent Brian Smith.

Smith plans to introduce a number of proposals tonight to help address that problem, including "pay to participate" or "pay to play" fees, selling graduation CDs, charging for diplomas and covers, adjusting facility charges., offering half-day kindergarten with parents providing transportation and a modified health care plan.

Marianna Richards, director of school and community relations for the district, tells Eyewitness News the largest reductions would be in staff benefits - through higher deductibles and prescription costs in the staff health plan.

"I'm kind of wondering how it will all play out," PTO President Charron Wright said Monday. "Because so many athletes, including parents and kids, but then you pay for recreational sports. Your travel sports. We have just come to a point where we can't absorb it all."

Smith's goal is to cut $5 million over the next two years, but he insists the cuts will not touch teachers or the classroom.

"There is that feeling that looks like a rich school district," Smith said. "Well, sometimes appearances can fool. We are struggling to maintain class sizes. We want to maintain test scores. That is a priority for us."

That is due in large part according to Smith to the current school funding formula which leaves HSE as the second lowest-funded school system in the state, despite serving 20,000 students. Now, he is asking parents to help out.

"We are being forced to do more with less," Wright said.

Probably the biggest surprise here at Hamilton Southeastern is not what is on the list, but what is not on the list. Transportation is so far hands off and that, at least for tonight, is the good news.

Tonight's school board meeting begins at 7:00. We will have a recap tonight on the Nightbeat at 11:00.