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Chester County Press

OASD thankful that education subsidies are now arriving

01/18/2016 11:20PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Oxford Area School District business administrator Brian Cooney said that he was very happy to report that some of the education subsidies from the state have now arrived despite the fact that a state budget impasse continues well into its seventh month.

At the Jan. 12 school board meeting, Cooney said that when district officials returned to work for the new year, approximately $8.5 million of state funding was in the district's account.

“The state provided some much-needed funds to the school districts,” Cooney said, adding that the arrival of those funds does not mean an end to the state budget situation or an end to Pennsylvania school districts' financial struggles as the state remains without a budget seven months into the fiscal year.

In late December, Gov. Tom Wolf rejected significant portions of a $30.3 billion spending plan that was approved by the GOP-controlled State Legislature. Wolf used the line-item veto authority on the budget, and announced that he was releasing about $3.5 billion in education funding to the state's 500 school districts.

School districts in southern Chester County have been able to manage without the state subsidies, but some school districts, especially larger districts in cities, were forced to borrow money to pay bills as the budget impasse went on month after month.

Cooney said that the $8.5 million that Oxford Area School District received represents about half of the state subsidy that it would expect for the 2015-2016 school year.

School district officials still don't know exactly what level of state funding they will receive for the current school year. Gov. Wolf's initial proposal called for significant funding increases for schools, but he has been unable to work out a deal with Republican lawmakers on a comprehensive spending plan that would make that available. Oxford officials hope they will know how much funding they will receive from the state soon. It is almost time for the district to begin serious work on the budget for the 2016-2017 school year.

“We'll be watching closely to see how it shakes out,” Cooney said.

Oxford has not yet unveiled a preliminary budget for the 2016-2017 school year. The school board did vote to remain within the Act 1 Index limit, which is the maximum amount that a district can raise taxes without seeking approval from voters via a referendum.

Cooney said that the business office is working on getting the exact figures for insurance costs for the next year. Those costs should be known soon, which would give district officials a clearer picture of the budget for the next year.

In other business at the meeting, Pamela Baker of Barbacane Thornton & Company LLP, provided the school board with an audit report for the fiscal year that concluded on June 30, 2015. Baker said that the financial statements were presented in a way that is consistent with accepted accounting practices. There were few audit adjustments and no shortcomings with internal controls. She praised the work of the district's budget office.