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Proposed 2014-15 OESJ budget cuts tax levy

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - Updated: 9:28 AM

OPPENHEIM -- The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Board of Education Wednesday, April 23 adopted a proposed $18.5 million budget that, if approved, would continue to improve opportunities for students while decreasing the tax levy for district residents.

The board unanimously approved an $18,510,847 budget with a tax levy of $4,781,849, which reflects a 1 percent reduction from 2013-14. In addition to decreasing the local tax levy, the proposed budget would also increase academic support for students and set aside $500,000 in the district’s Tax Relief Reserve Fund to help stabilize future tax rates.

“The proposed budget will move the district forward as it continues to build a strong foundation and provide students with an education that will make them college and career ready,” Acting Superintendent Thomas Gallagher said.

Included in the proposed budget are funds to establish a “Freshmen Academy,” or a “school within a school” to ease the transition for ninth graders entering OESJ High School; increase reading and math instruction for elementary students; hire a full-time school psychologist; maintain current class sizes and provide an in-house alternative high school education program for students who need a different approach from what the traditional school setting offers.

The budget also included funds to establish a six-week elementary summer school program and a four-week middle school summer program.

The proposed budget carries a year-to-year spending increase of 2.3 percent, which is the result of one-time expenditures that will not need to be repeated in the 2015-16 budget.

One-time spending increases in the proposed budget include technology purchases for the OESJ High School Freshmen Academy; the purchase of one truck and two buses; painting and new scoreboard for the OESJ Elementary/Middle School gymnasium, the establishment of a high school weight room; heating control upgrades at the high school and equipment for the maintenance department.

The proposed budget also sets aside money for future tax relief by shifting $500,000 merger incentive aid to the district’s Tax Relief Reserve Fund, an allocation the board also made in the 2013-14 budget. For the 2015-16 budget year, the board again anticipates allocating $500,000 to bring the fund’s total to $1.5 million.

“The increased aid gives the board of education the resources to improve the quality of education for students while also building a reserve fund that can provide financial stability for the district for years to come,” Gallagher said. “The establishment of a Tax Relief Reserve Fund was one of the recommendations made in the original merger study, and the board is following through on that.”

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 7 in the OESJ High School auditorium.


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