OASD budget picture improves slightly
● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Area School District’s budget picture for 2015-2016 is improving—slightly.
Brian Cooney, the district’s business administrator, provided a budget update at the March 10 school board meeting, telling the board that Oxford now expects its medical insurance costs to be about $247,885 less than originally budgeted. As a result, the $64 million proposed budget that was highlighted in December now stands at $63.7 million.
Cooney also outlined some of the key points to Gov. Tom Wolf’s first proposed state budget, which was released last week and includes a $1 billion increase in education funding. Cooney said that according to state figures, Oxford would see an increase of $1.12 million in regular education funding and another $350,000 in special education funding if the proposed state budget is approved as is. That’s a big if, of course.
“It will be a long road for the governor to get that budget passed,” Cooney said, explaining that GOP state senators responded to the budget proposal by sending a letter to superintendents cautioning them not to expect all of the additional funding that has been proposed.
Cooney said that Oxford would be budgeting as if it was going to receive the same level of state support as the current year until a state budget is approved, which could be later than normal because it is Wolf’s first budget.
Oxford’s $64 million budget was first unveiled to the public in December. The figures at that time showed that expenditures were increasing by $3,117,878, or 5.12 percent, from the previous year. Several items were responsible for most of that increase, including the state-mandated contribution to the Pennsylvania Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS), employee salaries, transportation costs, and tuition payments to charter schools. The PSERS contribution alone pushed the budget up by more than $1 million.
The school board voted in January to stay within the district’s Act 1 Index limit of 2.6 percent. The statewide Act 1 Index limit is 1.9 percent, but Oxford qualifies for some exemptions.
In a somewhat related matter, Superintendent David Woods presented the school board with a draft of a resolution for the school board to consider. The resolution calls for the state to develop a funding formula for public schools. Woods noted that there is a commission currently working on developing a funding formula that would reduce some of the inequalities between the school districts.
“I believe that we can all agree that we need a state formula for education that is fair and consistent,” Woods said.
Woods also wants the school board to approve June 5 as the graduation date. The school year will be extended because of the snow days that need to be made up, but Woods wants to keep June 5 as the graduation date for high school seniors so that their families can make plans.
The school board was to consider the funding formula resolution and the graduation date at its March 17 meeting.