Oxford “at a crossroads,” superintendent says

OXFORD – Oxford Superintendent Randy Squier presented his administration’s budget proposal to the district’s board of education Monday night, at the school system’s first budget meeting of the year.

His plan, which endeavors to close the gap between state aid reductions and rising costs, reflected a decrease in spending from the current year of 1.19 percent and would increase the local tax levy approximately 2.5 percent. To achieve that, however, the district will have to both tap into its fund balance and make more than $600,000 in program and staffing cuts.

“It includes cuts and reductions in programs and services throughout our schools,” Squier said, as he discussed the steps he had taken to address the more than $1 million gap between revenues and expenditures which would have existed if the district had rolled over last year’s budget.

According to the superintendent, maintaining the same level of service would require a $401,449 increase in spending, the equivalent of a more than 23 percent hike in the local tax levy.

Squier attributed the gap to both a loss of aid revenue and an increase in expenses over which the district has no control. On the revenue side, Oxford is facing a $428,445 reduction in state aid, the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the district’s total budget. In addition, he explained, the district must also absorb an additional $654,000 in employee benefit related expenditures. This includes an 11 percent increase in health insurance premiums, 21 percent increases in both worker’s compensation and retirement contributions, and a 333 percent increase in unemployment insurance as a result of positions slated for elimination.

There are also contractual obligations, such as approximately $48,000 in salaries for support staff. Estimated salary increases for teachers are also included in the budget, he said, explaining that the district and the Oxford Teachers Association are currently in negotiations. The teachers union’s current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Helping balance the equation slightly is an additional $84,000 in revenue Oxford will receive back in BOCES aid for outsourcing business office functions to the DCMO BOCES Central Business Office (CBO). And the district will realize a savings of approximately $240,000 in their expenditures to BOCES due to both a decline in the number of students who attended CTE classes at the Chenango Campus this year and the number of students requiring special education services. The district also expects to shave some $51,300 from its utilities costs.

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