Budget for Oxford schools projected to be $65.6 million in 2016-17
● By Steven Hoffman
The agenda of the Oxford School Board's April 12 work session was topped by a discussion about the district's proposed budget for the 2016-2017 school year.
Lawmakers in Harrisburg recently finalized the state budget for the current fiscal year—nine months after the deadline—so officials at Pennsylvania's 500 public schools finally have a clearer picture of the state subsidies that each district will receive for the 2015-16 school year. Approximately one-third of Oxford Area School District's revenues come from funding from the state, so a significant piece of the budgetary puzzle had been missing.
Brian Cooney, the business administrator for the Oxford Area School District, shared some good financial news with the school board. Since the budget deal that state lawmakers approved included additional funding for public schools, Oxford will be receiving a slightly larger state subsidy than it had budgeted for in the 2015-16 budget. Cooney said that Oxford is now expected to see an increase of $357,000 in state funding for the 2015-2016 school year. Additionally, the amount that the district receives as part of the Ready To Learn Grant is going up slightly. Oxford is now expecting to receive $226,000 through the Ready To Learn Grant, which is approximately a 51 percent increase over the previous year.
That's the good news. The bad news is that projected expenditures continue to out-pace revenues, largely because of state-mandated increases to the Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS). Cooney said that total expenditures for 2016-17 are now projected at $65,663,336, which is an increase of about $2,269,456, or 3.58 percent over the current school year. More than half of the increase can be attributed to PSERS contributions alone.
Oxford's Act 1 Index limit for this year is 3.3 percent—that's the maximum amount that taxes can be raised without seeking approval from voters through a referendum. The Oxford Area School District administration is recommending a one-percent increase in the tax rate for 2016-17 to balance the budget.
Cooney explained that a one-percent tax increase would hike the millage rate from 30.5347 mills to 30.84 mills. For the average taxpayer, that equates to a $40 increase in the tax bill.
The school board will vote to adopt a final budget for 2016-2017 in June.
In other business at the April 12 meeting, Joseph Lubitsky, the director of administration for the Chester County Intermediate Unit made a presentation about the Chester County Intermediate Unit's budget for 2016-2017.
There will be no increase in core budget contributions, which amount to about $20,657 for Oxford, Lubitsky said. The Chester County Intermediate Unit's occupational education budget is projected to be $26.4 million to provide career and training programs to students in the 12 school districts served by the Chester County Intermediate Unit.
Three-year average enrollment figures are used to determine how much each school district contributes to the occupational education budget. Oxford now has more than 200 students attending classes at the Pennock's Bridge campus.
“Our enrollment continues to climb,” Lubitsky said.
The Oxford School Board will meet again on Tuesday, May 10 and Tuesday, May 17. Both meetings will take place at 7 p.m. in the administration building.