Oxford School Board moves closer to approving new budget
● By Steven Hoffman
With the deadline to approve a final budget for the 2015-2016 school year on the horizon, school board member Joseph Tighe, who serves on the district’s budget committee, said that work on the spending plan is nearing completion.
“We’re getting very close to finalizing the budget,” Tighe said at the April 21 school board meeting, explaining that the budget committee is recommending a one-percent tax increase. A tax increase in that amount would add about $39 to the average homeowner’s tax bill for the next year.
Tighe explained that the statewide Act 1 limit for tax increases is 1.9 percent this year. Oxford qualifies for some exceptions that will allow for an adjusted Act 1 limit of 2.6 percent, which is the largest possible tax increase without getting approval from voters via a referendum. The school board does not want to raise taxes by that much, however.
Tighe said that a one-percent increase will still leave the district about $4.3 million short of balancing the 2015-2016 budget. The district is hopeful that some line items of the budget will improve before the spending plan is adopted. There could also be an increase in the level of state funding that the district receives, but that may not be known until well after the 2015-2016 budget is adopted.
Tighe also told the school board that the budget committee is recommending keeping the participation fees at the current level for another year.
Tighe emphasized that if anyone knows of a student who is having a hard time paying for the participation fees, there are options available for help. He said that people can make a donation on a student’s behalf to cover the fees, and the donation is tax-deductible.
“There is no way that a student should be held back from participating in an activity because of a $70 fee,” Tighe said, adding that he would like to see the establishment of a scholarship fund that would be available to help students who need assistance paying for these fees.
Assistant superintendent Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones made a report about the district’s math curriculum and the materials that the district is using to support it. She offered this tidbit: Over a recent two-month period, students in the district collectively solved about 1.1 million math problems.
During public comment, Steve Roberts, the president of the Oxford Education Foundation (OEF), thanked the school board for approving seven new volunteers who will be working in the schools to help the students in the district. Roberts said that brings the total number of OEF volunteers to 51.
The Oxford School Board is holding a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 4 at the Hopewell Elementary School. The board’s work session is slated for Tuesday, May 12 and the regular meeting takes place on Tuesday, May 19. The Oxford Area High School graduation is set for Friday, June 5 at 7 p.m.