Oxford School Board votes to keep tax increase below Act 1 Index limit
● By Steven Hoffman
Taxes in the Oxford Area School District will not increase by more than the Act 1 Index limit of 3.5 percent this year after a vote by the Oxford School Board on Jan. 17.
The Oxford School Board unanimously approved a resolution to stay within the Act 1 Index for the 2017-2018 school year. The Act 1 Index is calculated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and establishes the maximum school-tax increase that is allowable without approval by residents in a referendum. By adopting this opt-out resolution, Oxford will not have to speed up the budgetary process to allow for a referendum on the tax increase in the Primary Election. School districts that exceed the Act 1 Index limit must either secure approval for the tax increase through a referendum or be granted referendum exceptions as a result of the Taxpayer Relief Act that was approved by the Pennsylvania State Legislature in 2006.
Board member Howard Robinson pointed out that the approval of the resolution only sets 3.5 percent as the maximum amount of a tax increase, and it does not set the tax increase at 3.5 percent. Robinson said that he is hopeful that the actual tax increase that is needed to balance the budget will be less than 3.5 percent.
Board member Joseph Tighe, who serves on the district's Finance and Budget Committee, lauded the administrators and teachers in the district for their work to limit expenditures. He explained that district officials originally anticipated needing to dip into the fund reserve to cover a significant revenue shortfall—of as much as $4.7 million—for the current fiscal year, but the shortfall will be much less than that.
Also at the Jan. 17 meeting, the school board approved a new collective-bargaining agreement with the custodial staff.
During public comment, Sandy Reyburn spoke on behalf of several families who want to have a chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) at the high school.
Currently, there is an FFA Club at the school. But having a chapter, Reyburn said, would open up new opportunities for students. The students would have the chance to benefit from the leadership and community service component of FFA chapters, and they would also have scholarship and career development opportunities.
Reyburn said that she thinks approximately 15 students currently attend FFA Club meetings, but she also knows of several families who send their children to other schools specifically because they want to belong to an FFA chapter. Other families have middle school children who will be moving up to the high school and would be interested in belonging to an FFA chapter.
Superintendent David Woods said that providing agricultural education to students is important to the district. He noted that Oxford had reintroduced an agriculture science program through a partnership with the Technical College High School. Woods asked Reyburn to give him some time so that he and high school principal James Canaday can research what is required to transition to an FFA chapter.
Steve Roberts, the president of the Oxford Educational Foundation, informed the school board that, with the addition of the three new volunteers who were approved by the board this month, there are now 90 volunteers. One of the services that the Oxford Area Educational Foundation provides to the district is to identify volunteers who can support the school district's mission to educate students. Many of the volunteers serve as mentors or tutors to students in the district. Roberts said that the goal is to get the number of volunteers up to 100.
Board member Robert Tenga was appointed to serve as the board's representative to the Chester County School Boards Legislative Council Representative Committee.
January is School Director Recognition Month, and Woods recognized the nine school board members for their efforts to serve the community. Woods noted that the average director devotes 16 to 20 hours each month to work on the school board.
The school board accepted and approved the annual audit report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2016. The report, which was completed by Barbacane, Thornton & Company, found no issues.
The Oxford School Board will hold its next work session on Tuesday, Feb. 14 and its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Both meetings will take place at 7 p.m. in the district's administration building.