OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City School District adopted a budget for the 2015-16 school year.
The $82,847,754 spending plan was passed unanimously.
It contains a 9.77 percent tax increase.
At Thursday’s special meeting, Superintendent Ben Halsey presented the board with a list of additional reductions (to be applied to the $83,742,675 budget draft they were working on).
The cuts included:
$525,000 in legal fees
$121,150 – Reading program (rollover from Title funds will be used)
$66,806 – Assistant Transportation Supervisor
$37,755 – Summer Workers
$11,700 – Memberships
$90,000 – Administrative Tuition
$30,288 – Middle School intramurals (pilot program, not an existing program, cut includes fringes)
$20,000 – Consultants (from Business office function)
$2,000 – Contracts (transportation)
$15,624 – Reduce (OMS) Principal to 10-month position (includes fringes)
The total reductions – $920,323 – brought the budget figure down to $82,822,354.
However, $25,400 was added to restore field trips.
“Is there any wiggle room to bring back our field trips?” asked Lynda Sereno, board vice president.
If they were returned, the budget would still be under the 10 percent goal, the superintendent said.
The board was agreeable to putting the trips back into the budget.
On the revenue side, Halsey proposed transferring $400,000 from the debt service as well as refunds from prior year expenses, refund of Medicare Part D and refund of current year expenses.
The refunds are anything the district has paid for last year or in previous years where OCSD has gotten a refund or a rebate in the current year, explained Nancy Squairs, district business manager.
Also on the revenue side, $500,000 “drawing from our PILOT revenue. It does make me uncomfortable, but these are uncomfortable times. So, I guess it fits,” the superintendent said.
Another million dollars will be taken from the tax certiorari fund.
Transfer from other reserves; lumped together were workers’ comp, unemployment, ERS (Employee Retirement System) and liability for a total of $436,048.
The district will have to ask the voters to approve the transfer of $150,000 from the liability reserve, Halsey pointed out. It will be offered as a proposition along with the budget and school bus proposition in May.
The additional revenues total $2,536,048.
“We’ve reduced our levy to 3.45 million from where we were on Tuesday night. It brings our tax rate to $21.17 per thousand for a total levy increase of 9.58 percent; under the 10 percent that we talked about as our goal,” Halsey said. In 2009-10, the rate was 21.54.
Reinstating the field trips slightly enlarged the tax increase.
For a $100,000 home owner, “they’re going to look at a $133.13 increase in their school tax bill,” the superintendent said.
Since the district is under its tax cap, that money will be refunded to the homeowners, the superintendent said, noting that this is the second year of the state’s two-year program.
“We’ve trimmed. We’ve closed our margins. Good budgeting is overestimating expenditures and underestimating your revenues a little bit so that you give yourself a little room,” Halsey said. “We have closed those margins as close as we possibly can do.”
“You must be very tired, both of you,” Sereno told Halsey and Squairs.
“No more than the rest of you,” the superintendent replied.
“You’ve done a great job. I’m pleased. I think this is something that I can support,” Sereno said.
“I appreciate it, too,” board member Sam Tripp added. “But, I ask that next year, we start earlier so it doesn’t come down to this, the last week.”
Board President Kathleen Allen expressed confidence in the budget.
“If the public has the facts, that this is actually a lower tax rate than we had in 2009-10 I think they’ll approve it,” she said. “And that going to a contingency only hurts our district.”
“I’m confident that we’ve done everything we can to put out a good budget number for the public to consider,” Halsey told Oswego County Today after the meeting. “Our students are going to return in September and still be able to get what we offer (now). It’s taken a lot of work to get there and there are some sacrifices here with our administrative positions.”
The tax rate started out at 40 percent and it wound up at 9.77, he pointed out.
On May 5 at 5 p.m. there will be a public hearing on the budget at the board meeting, scheduled for the OHS cafeteria.