Explanation of 2020-2021 School Budget
Oxford Academy and
Central School District
May 11, 2020
During a school budget process, the need for transparency
and clarity is of the utmost importance. It is especially true in times like these when there are a multitude of
factors influencing the availability of funds that the district relies upon to
remain stable and operate at peak efficiency.
It is important to note that this is not intended to be anything but an explanation of how we got here and a request for support. There are many ways to solve budget issues. We believe some are better than others and we’ve tried to strike a balance between contract obligations, programs for students, insurance contracts, student learning, teaching conditions, security, equipment and supplies, etc.
There is no good way to close a $1.7 million budget
gap. Sometimes, what we want to do, and
what we need to do, are in direct conflict with each other. It is never easy to decide on matters that
will directly impact people and their future. We take such matters very seriously. The process is stressful and anxiety-ridden
for everybody involved. It begins in the
fall and lasts well into the spring and is characterized by many heart-wrenching
This is how it unfolded this year.
Early in October we began to look towards Albany for the
indicators that continually shed light on what the state budget might look
like. During that time, we saw storm
clouds on the horizon and communicated as much to the three buildings. Because there was an almost $6 billion budget
deficit in Albany, we asked teachers and staff to start to be more frugal in
anticipation of a tough budget season.
We began to filter expenditures and costs associated with
those expenditures very carefully. District teams put almost every program on the table and began to
discuss needs vs. desires and programs required by law vs. those that are not. Negotiables vs. non-negotiables.
BOCES budgets, extra-curricular activities, sports, summer programs,
transportation, personnel, etc. were all discussed.
We worked on this for months and gathered data from multiple
At the same time, our health insurance situation was quickly becoming an area of concern. Rates were set to increase but we didn’t know exactly how much. We knew we wouldn’t have an answer for months and it was difficult to project accurately.
Because of these unknown variables, we began to research
other health insurance options. We discussed
seeking refuge in a plan that was comparable to the current plan and had some
form of rate stabilization built into it to protect us from catastrophic
increases in the future.
Then the Governor’s budget was released on January 21st. When we put pen to paper, we had a $466,000
On February 3rd, the BOE voted to accept two local
retirement incentives to be offered to teachers ages 64 and younger, and 65 and
older. The goal being to cut costs if
possible. Meanwhile, our health
insurance rates were calculated to increase to well over 40%.
We thought that moving to a new health insurance plan was
imminent. A defensive move against an
escalating set of costs that could eventually break the district.
We would soon learn that most teachers were not interested
in the local retirement incentives and that our health insurance costs would
put our budget deficit at somewhere near $1.2 million. A number that this district has never seen.
Teams went back to work assessing where to find additional
savings. We needed another half million
dollars at least.
Then, COVID-19 hit.
The entire district began to put plans in place to be able to teach from home and support our community well in advance of the Governor’s closure order. We were as ready as we could be in case schools were closed.
However, New York wasn’t ready for the financial burden the pandemic would cause. The state budget deficit exploded to an unmanageable $12 billion or more.
As the pandemic progressed, state officials decided to take
funds from schools to address the health care sector. When the final budget was released in March,
the state had taken even more money from schools and our local deficit
increased to $1.7 million.
Our current health insurance carrier contacted us with a new
rate increase that would save the district $167,000 over making the move to the
new plan. With this savings, we
projected staying with our current health insurance plan would save multiple
However, we still had to balance a budget with a huge
deficit. And we wanted to stay away from
actions that would have a profound impact on student learning and
student-oriented programs. But we could
not allow ourselves to spend more than we brought in.
We had no choice but to eliminate multiple positions.
We had to eliminate an administrator, four teaching
positions, fourteen aides, the SRO contract, one cafeteria worker, one and a
half custodians, and consolidate many services along the way.
In fact, our budget next year is $1.6 million less than our budget this year. It’s hard to imagine in an era of rapidly rising costs.
To make matters even more challenging, we are further
looking at having to contend with state aid reductions in all four quarters of
the next fiscal year that may force additional changes as the new school year
We will most likely have to reinvent education along the way
including blended learning of some sort as our new model. This could be a combination of school based,
in class, person-to-person instruction incorporating periods of online learning
along the way. Long term cuts in revenue
may very well force significant changes to the standard operating procedures
that have been in place for decades.
However, one thing that will remain constant though this era
is the need for community support. Our school
will need the support of the surrounding communities now more than ever. As our school continues to be an important
foundational aspect of the Oxford Community, it will need the people as much as
the people will need it.
Children will continue to attend and learning will continue
to occur. The school will continue to
shape the development of the next generation of community leaders no matter
what form it takes and it will still need multiple levels of support as it does
This school has been in the service of this community since
1794 and it has persevered through many trying times. Now is one of those times.
We will get through it, but we need everyone’s steadfast support. We will come out on the other end of this more streamlined and more ready than ever for the challenges that will face us as we continue to adapt to the new norms of the 21st
That being said, it is important for the community and the
school to remain undivided in these trying times. We are dependent on each other for
success. We are in this together.
Your continued support is much appreciated as we negotiate
this pandemic and this fiscal crisis together, united under a common cause.
With kind regards.
Oxford Academy and Central Schools