By Steven Hoffman
At the Jan. 14 Oxford School Board meeting, business administrator Charles Lewis offered an update on the proposed preliminary budget for 2014-2015.
When the school district unveiled the budget in December, Lewis said that there are anticipated expenditures of about $61.5 million for 2014-2015. That’s about 2.9 million more than the current year—a five-percent increase—and creates a revenue shortfall at this point in the budgeting process.
“We’re monitoring each of our line items for additional revenue,” Lewis said, adding that district officials will have to eventually decide how to close the gap--either through increased taxes, utilizing some of the district's fund balance use, or finding ways to reduce expenditures.
Governor Tom Corbett will propose his 2014-15 budget on Feb. 4, which, Lewis said, will give school districts an idea of how Corbett sees school funding for the next school year. The district's Finance Committee will meet next on Feb. 12.
In a somewhat related financial matter, the school district is once again considering refinancing some of its outstanding bond debt to improve the interest rates that it is paying on the debt service. This could produce some significant savings for the district.
Scott Shearer of Public Financial Management said that the district has about a half a dozen bond issues outstanding, but the immediate focus is on refinancing about $8 million of the $13 million left on the obligation of 2005 “B” bonds. The structure of the bond issue will remain the same, with a maturation date in 2022, but the district will be able to improve the interest rate on the debt.
Schearer said that if the district moves forward with this refinancing plan, it can expect to see a net savings of about $280,000.
The board is expected to vote on whether to authorize the refinancing later this month.
Schearer added that Oxford might also look at refinancing another bond issue later in 2014 that could produce significant net savings on debt service.
Timothy Umbreit, who provides audit reports to the school district, made a presentation regarding the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2013. Umbreit said that the district’s books were in fine order and he complimented business administrator Charles Lewis, Jr. and the business staff for their work.
Umbreit did tell the school board that starting in 2015, the state will be requiring school districts to include in their financial reports the district’s portion of the obligation to the Public School Employees Retirement System. Statewide, this pension system is underfunded by approximately $30 billion. School districts have seen their pension obligations climb significantly in the last few years, and the increases are expected to continue to climb in the next five years.
The school board has meetings scheduled in February for Tuesday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 18. Both meetings will take place in the district’s administration building.