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 discussed 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 on March 3 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 finalized—which could be later than normal because it is Wolf’s first budget.
Oxford’s proposed 2015-2016 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 current 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 that would allow for a tax increase as high as 2.6 percent.