OXFORD – It took two tries for the Oxford Area School Board to approve a proposed final budget for the 2012-13 school year, and even then the document they voted for is not the one they expect to see for final approval.
The $55 million proposed final budget cuts no programs, but to pay for it, the plan has been to raise taxes by 1.7 percent as well as using 1.7 million from the district's fund balance. Instead, the board appears to want to eliminate the tax increase as well as increases in student participation fees and take more from the fund balance.
The first time the budget came up for a vote, at the April 17 Board Meeting, it failed to pass with just three aye votes from Howard Robinson, Donna Arrowood and Joseph Tighe, while Gary Olson, Christine Peabody, Dominic Pirocchi and Joe Scheese voted nay. New board member Steven Gaspar who was sworn in at the beginning of the meeting abstained and member Jason Brady was absent.
At that point, district business manager Charles Lewis was left not knowing what was to be expected from him. 'We started in July and went all the way through without this coming up. I don't know how to proceed now. I need to know what prompted the no votes,' he asked the board.
Shifting away from a tax increase and toward using the fund balance appears to be the board's biggest issue. 'The taxpayers already paid that money. We have it sitting in our general reserve. We can use that to balance our budget and take a harder look at our next year's budget,' Scheese said. 'The amount we spend will still be the same; we will just take the money out of the general reserve.'
Arrowood, who voted for the budget pointed out that it is not a final budget and can be changed before final approval. If the budget was not approved, it would be possible that the district would fail to meet the June deadline for final approval. 'This does not mean we're approving real estate taxes, this is a budget that can be changed and can be reduced before we vote on the final,' she said.
After discussion the board voted again, this time with all aye votes except for Gaspar, who again abstained. Now Lewis is charged with bringing back a revision of the budget that shows no new taxes and no revenue from student fees.
The student fees issue is one that is relatively small in comparison to most budget items, bringing in about $52,000. In practice, the district has had trouble collecting the fees for parking and for participating in sports or other activities.
Lewis will bring a new version of the budget back to the board next month for final approval in May.