Budget situation improves for Oxford schools
By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford Area School District has received some good financial news since a preliminary budget was adopted two months ago for the 2014-2015 school year.
Business administrator Charles Lewis, Jr. announced at the March 18 Oxford School Board meeting that the district was able to refinance about $9 million in bond issues that will result in savings of about $665,000 in debt service payments.
Lewis said that about half of that savings will be used to balance the 2014-2015 budget.
When the school district unveiled the preliminary budget in December, the spending plan called for about $61.5 million in expenditures. That’s about $2.9 million more than the current year’s budget—a five-percent increase that can be attributed mainly to rising costs for salaries and state-mandated pension contributions.
But Oxford has received some good news on the expenditure side of the budget as well.
Health care costs are now expected to be about $500,000 less than originally projected.
Additionally, the proposed state budget includes funding for a Ready to Learn Block Grant. Approximately, $600,000 could be available to Oxford through this grant program. Lewis cautioned however that the funding could be tied to very specific programs and initiatives, so there wouldn’t be a net impact on the overall budget.
School board member Richard Orpneck also pointed out that funding through this program might be available for just one year and the responsibility for funding the program or initiative in the future would rest with the district.
These recent developments should result in good news for taxpayers when the school board adopts a final budget in June.
Initially, the tax rate was expected to rise by about 2.1 percent. But now, the district might be able to balance the budget with an increase of about .80 percent. The average taxpayer would see an increase of about $24 in the tax bill.
District officials will continue work on the budget over the course of the next few months.
“We’re continuing to monitor the budget on the state level, and we’re also monitoring our expenses and savings opportunities for our budget,” Lewis said.
In other business at the meeting, the school board approved a revised school calendar for the current year. This was made necessary because of all the snow days that have accumulated throughout the winter.
Superintendent David Woods said that graduation for seniors will now take place on June 6. The last school day for all other students will be June 11, which is three days later than the date that was originally planned for in the calendar for the 2013-2014 school year.
The school board gave its stamp of approval for the 2014-2015 core services budget for the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU). The CCIU’s overall core services budget is projected to be $18,468,620, with Oxford’s portion of that estimated to be $20,587. The school board also approved the CCIU’s 2014-2015 occupational education budget in the amount of $24,574,830. The estimated cost to the Oxford Area School District is $1,710,396.
During a special presentation at the school board meeting, the district honored the boys’ varsity basketball team that earned a state playoff berth this year.
“They had an outstanding season,” said high school principal Christopher Dormer, noting that the team made it to the Ches-Mont League final four, had a strong showing in districts, and earned a spot in the state playoff tournament.
In states, Oxford went up against Roman Catholic, a team that was considered not only one of the best teams in Pennsylvania, but a top-20 ranked team in the country. Roman Catholic built up a double-digit lead, but Oxford charged back in the third quarter. Although Oxford couldn’t pull off the upset win, the Hornets trailed by just one basket late in the fourth quarter.
“This team made it one of the most electric fourth quarters that I’ve ever seen in a high school basketball,” Dormer said.
The team includes Devon Sumner, Brian Dorsey, Dylan Dunn, Shane Quigley, Tyler Farr, Aaron Sivels, Musty Mahmud, Miles Clark, Jordan Logan, Ryan Hubley, Nicholas Salvador, Thomas Rochester, Ethan Herb, and Joshua Mosley.
Dormer also honored Morgan Curl, who earned a spot in the PIAA state swimming and diving championships. By making it to that point, Curl was one of the top 32 swimmers in the entire state. She actually ended up placing 15th overall in the state. Dormer noted that Curl is just a ninth-grader, and everyone is looking forward to seeing what she can accomplish in the next three years.
The school board will meet again on Tuesday, April 8 and Tuesday, April 15. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Administration Building.