Budget projections for Oxford schools improve
● By Steven Hoffman
As the deadline for adopting a final budget for the 2015-2016 school year approaches, the Oxford Area School District’s budget picture is improving slightly.
Oxford Area School District business administrator Brian Cooney offered an update on the proposed budget at the school board meeting on May 12, informing the board that projected expenditures have declined by more than $300,000—from $63.7 million to $63.3 million—since the last presentation. Overall, projected spending has been reduced by more than $600,000 since the preliminary budget of slightly more than $64 million four months ago.
Consequently, the tax increase for the coming fiscal year will be less than expected.
Cooney explained that initially the district expected the tax increase to be around 2.6 percent, close to Oxford’s adjusted Act 1 Index limit, as they attempted to close a budget deficit of more than $3 million. Now, the anticipated tax increase is one percent. Even with the tax increase, the district will still be dipping into its fund balance for more than $4 million as a way to balance the budget.
Cooney said that the district’s projected medical insurance costs have declined by $241,367 and debt-service payments are down by $153,791 because of refinancing. Anticipated tuition costs for the Technical College High School, Intermediate Unit transportation costs, and spending on technology have also been reduced.
Cooney outlined a number of budgeting scenarios for the board, ranging from a spending plan with no tax increase to one with a 2.6 percent increase. Local revenues were not going to be sufficient to pay for the increased expenditures under any of the scenarios, so the district was going to be relying on its fund balance to support the spending plan no matter what.
“It’s just a matter of to what extent we fund the budget from the fund balance,” Cooney said.
A one-percent increase would require the district to use $4.3 million of the fund balance.
The millage rate would increase by .3023 mills, from 30.2324 mills to 30.5347 mills. That equates to a $39 increase for the homeowner of a property with the average residential assessment of $130,318.
The school board will approve a final budget in June.
In the last four years the district has had two years—2011-2012 and 2013-2014—where there was no tax increase. In 2012-2013, the tax increase was 1.7 percent. There was a .61 percent increase for the 2014-2015 school year.
Depending on the state’s final budget, the district might see some additional revenues that would limit how much the district draws from its fund balance. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget called for some significant funding public schools, but school districts were cautioned not to count on the additional funding until a state spending plan is finalized.
Oxford, like most districts, is basing its budget figures on state funding remaining constant.
The school board also discussed the student participation fees at the meeting. The recommendation from the district’s budget committee is to keep the fee structure the same—$75 for high school students and $50 for middle school students.
The school board will meet again on on Tuesday, June 9 and Tuesday, June 16. Both meetings will take place at 7 p.m. in the Hopewell Elementary School.