Oxford School Board approves a $68.5 million proposed final budget
By Steven Hoffman
At its meeting on April 18, the Oxford School Board unanimously approved a proposed final budget of $68,541,635 for 2017-2018.
Overall, the budget includes an increase of $2,878,654 in spending over the current fiscal year. That's a 4.38 percent increase in spending. The single largest item impacting Oxford's budget is the state-mandated contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), which is increasing by more than $1.1 million, an increase of approximately 8 percent.
Since the school district adopted a preliminary budget earlier this year, district officials have decided that it's necessary to add one district staff position and two elementary school positions.
School board member Joseph Tighe, who serves on the district's Finance Committee, said that a one-percent tax increase would likely be necessary to balance the budget, although work continues on the spending plan.
A millage rate hike of one-percent would increase the millage rate from 30.84 mills to 31.1484 mills. If the school board does approve a one-percent tax increase, the average taxpayer in the district would see a $39 increase in the tax bill.
The district will also be dipping into its fund balance in order to balance the budget, although the exact amount that will be allocated won’t be known for some time.
One of the biggest pieces of the school district budget remains somewhat uncertain—how will the state budget’s funding for public education change from one year to the next?
Oxford's budget was developed anticipating a small increase in the basic education subsidy from the state. However, Oxford officials also anticipated a decrease in the transportation subsidy that it receives from the state.
The proposed final budget will be available for review by the public for one month, and the school board is expected to adopt a final budget at its regular meeting in May.
In other business at the meeting, Oxford Area High School athletic director Michael Price talked about the accomplishments of four standout athletes during the most recent sports season. All four qualified for states in their respective sports.
David Cox, a senior, qualified for states in wrestling for the second year in a row.
Senior Morgan Curl, who will be heading to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, made her fourth straight trip to states in swimming. She placed fifth in the 200-meter freestyle at the competition.
Jeb Darhower, a junior, made his second straight trip to states in swimming. He was joined by teammate Michael Fazio, who qualified for the 200-meter freestyle in states. Fazio is only a sophomore.
The school board approved a resolution honoring J. Willard McMullen, who served the district for 37 years as a supervising principal between 1921 and 1958.
The resolution stated that McMullen's “excellent skills and competencies in working as Oxford Area High School administrator have come to be highly respected by those who knew him...”
Numerous family members were on hand to accept a portrait of the longtime school administrator. District employees came across a portrait of McMullen in a storage area of one of the school buildings.
Peggy Ann Russell, a resident of Oxford Borough, addressed the school board regarding the ACE Anti-Human Trafficking Alliance, a group that was founded by local residents to raise awareness about the dangers of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Russell explained that the problem is more widespread than most people realize. Oxford is close to I-95 and Route 1, and is in close proximity to major urban areas, so it is considered a potential pass-through area for human trafficking.
Russell said that students would benefit greatly from learning about the dangers of human trafficking, and the ACE Anti-Human Trafficking Alliance is willing to pay for two people from the school district to attend a multi-day conference so that they could bring that information back to the rest of the school district.
“I think it would be very beneficial to the Oxford Area School District,” Russell said, adding that the group holds a meeting that is open to the public on the first Saturday of each month at the Oxford Area Senior Center.
The Oxford School Board will meet again for a work session on Tuesday, May 9 and for a regular meeting on Tuesday, May 16. Both meetings will take place at the Administration Building and will begin at 7 p.m.