School Budget

 

 

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 decisions.

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 sources. 

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 budget shortfall. 

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 jobs.

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 progresses.

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 so.

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 century.

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.

Stay safe.

With kind regards.

John Hillis

Superintendent

Oxford Academy and Central Schools

 

Additional 2020-2021 Budget Informtion can be found HERE 

 

 

Oxford Academy and Central School District Annual Meeting
will be June 9, 2020 per Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.26


The Annual Meeting is for the purpose of voting on the school budget, school vehicles proposition and school board member election. It will also include the Oxford Memorial Library proposition and library board member election. The vote may not be held in person. Absentee ballots will be used for voting. The reason for voting by absentee ballot is temporary illness. The potential for contraction of the COVID-19 virus shall be deemed temporary illness. 

If you are registered with your County Board of Elections, an absentee ballot should be mailed to you by the District with a postage paid return envelope. If you are a qualified voter of the District (a U.S. citizen, eighteen years of age or older, and a resident of the school district for at least 30 days before the vote) you may request an absentee ballot be mailed to you. To request an absentee ballot, please contact Michele Rice, District Clerk, at 607-843-2025, ext. 4040. This request must be made by Friday, May 29, for the absentee ballot to be mailed to you. 

If you choose to vote, absentee ballots should be returned in the self-addressed stamped envelope that will be provided to you. All absentee voters’ ballots must be received in the Oxford Academy and Central School Office of the District Clerk by 5:00 p.m. on the day of the vote, June 9, 2020.

The Budget Hearing will be held remotely on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. No in-person participation is permitted. The Budget Hearing will be streamed live on the Oxford Academy and Central School District Website at www.oxac.org.The Budget Hearing will be held remotely on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. No in-person participation is permitted. The Budget Hearing will be streamed live on the Oxford Academy and Central School District Website at www.oxac.org. 

 Budget Notice

 

 

April 20, 2020 Budget Presentation 

 

Budget Update - March 5, 2020 

This post is meant to bring everyone up-to-date on our current fiscal situation.

The 2020-2021 school budget is proving to be challenging to say the least. This is the nuts and bolts, plain language, down and dirty explanation of what is happening.

At the end of January, the Governor’s budget was released. When that occurred we were notified of our state aid allotment and began doing the math. We had a budget gap of $466,000. We predicted in advance things were going to be tough, however, nothing could prepare us for what we’d soon be facing. 

Shortly thereafter, more data came in. This time it was an increase in health insurance costs. 

In a matter of weeks, as our cost adjustments were being fine-tuned, our budget gap escalated from $466,000 to $517,000 to $695,000 and on to our current gap of $1,028,000. 

We currently have a budget shortfall of over $1 million.

Finding a solution to this problem is no easy task. Difficult decisions are required to be made and we have been weighing our options very carefully for months. 

More than anything, our goals have been the security of our buildings and of course to protect student learning. These have been challenging but we feel we’ve put together a plan that addresses both.

We understand that every person and every program has worth. There is a human aspect to this and we take that very seriously.

However, there is no easy way to cut over $1 million out of a budget.  

In the end, people will be affected. This is not something that any of us want to see happen but this is a reality we must face. We realize the weight of the decisions that we’re forced to make and hope the community understands that we take no joy in any of them. 

State funding is not sufficient and operating costs continue to rise. We must come to terms with that. We are asking for your support as we navigate this very difficult terrain. 

The decisions we make are not easy.   Not everyone will agree with the actions we take. However, we hope that explaining our current situation will add clarity and understanding.  

 John Hillis - Superintendent

 

Second Budget Update - February 2020

The aid we use to pay our bills for the year is estimated to be $12,282,951.  This is an increase of $266,354 from our 2019-2020 aid package. As stated in the previous budget note though, this is not enough to cover our rising operating costs.
 
Therefore, our current budget shortfall is estimated to be approximately $500,000.
 
As a result of this, we are examining overall expenditures in all areas as well as multiple options to help minimize the impact to student learning.

 

First Budget Update - January 2020

As the budget season progresses, it is our intent to keep everybody as informed as possible.  This is the first of several budget updates that the district will provide to the Oxford community.

State Aid:

1.)           The Governor’s budget proposal was released on Tuesday, January 21st

2.)           In that budget, overall aid (excluding building aid) to the Oxford Academy and Central School District increased by a total of $266,354.00 or 2.17%.  

3.)           This aid increase is not adequate to cover the rising cost of funding a school district the size of Oxford.

Our Goal: 

1.)           To find solutions that do not significantly impact student learning.

2.)           To protect Oxford Academy and Central School District from future financial complications.

3.)           To provide up-to-date information as the budget season progresses.

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