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The Times
  • O-ECS lowers proposed tax increase

  • Oppenheim-Ephratah has brought its proposed tax levy increase down to the district’s state-imposed limit and will put a revised 2012 - 2013 budget up for a public vote on Tuesday, June 19.

    Residents voted 275 - 104 to defeat the district’s proposed $8.5 million budget for 2012 - 2013 when it was put up for a vote on May 15.

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  • Oppenheim-Ephratah has brought its proposed tax levy increase down to the district’s state-imposed limit and will put a revised 2012 - 2013 budget up for a public vote on Tuesday, June 19.
    Residents voted 275 - 104 to defeat the district’s proposed $8.5 million budget for 2012 - 2013 when it was put up for a vote on May 15.
    An exit survey conducted that day showed 81 percent of people who voted against the budget listed the proposed 4.5 percent tax levy increase as at least one of their reasons for voting against the budget.
    In response, the board of education decided Thursday to lower the proposed tax levy increase from 4.5 percent to 2.79 percent, which is now in line with the district’s state-imposed tax levy limit. The difference was made up by taking an additional $41,821 from the district’s fund balance.
    “We don’t want to deplete reserves any more than we have to, but we think the $41,821 is reasonable and felt we needed to respond to the public by lowering the proposed tax levy increase,” Superintendent Dan Russom said in a news release. “We believe the proposed 2.79 percent increase is necessary to generate revenue for operating the school and maintaining educational programs.”
    The budget vote will take place from 12 to 8 p.m. on June 19 in the school lobby at 6486 State Highway Route 29. For information, call 518-568-2014.
    Because the proposed tax levy increase was lowered to 2.79 percent and is in line with the district’s tax levy limit, the budget now needs a simple majority approval from residents when they vote on June 19. For the May 15 vote, the proposed budget exceeded the district’s tax levy limit and thus needed at least 60 percent voter approval for it to pass.
    “We have attempted to listen to the voters by lowering the proposed tax levy increase,” Russom said. “Now, the decision is in the voters’ hands. They can decide whether they want to pass the revised proposed budget, or reject it and leave the district with a contingent budget that would mean cuts to transportation and technology in the classroom.”
    Contingent budget
    If the revised budget fails to get support from a majority of voters on June 19, under state law, the district would have no choice but to adopt a contingent budget.
    The rules for contingent budgets have changed this year, based on the provisions of the new state-imposed tax-levy limit legislation.
    Now, under a contingent budget, there can be no increase in the tax levy increase compared to the previous year. For Oppenheim-Ephratah, a contingent budget would require cutting another $115,810 from the proposed budget.
    Under a contingent budget, the district would have to eliminate the purchase of a new bus and other equipment such as computers and bus cameras. The district also would have to start charging outside groups to use school facilities — including those community groups whose goals and programs help support the district.
    Page 2 of 2 - ‘Already cut’
    The proposed budget calls for a one percent increase in spending from the current school year.
    On Thursday, board of education members reviewed other options for altering the budget, but no other changes were made because the budget has already been stripped down so much, Russom said.
    “They basically said, ‘Haven’t we already cut everything we can?’” Russom said.
    The budget includes more than $207,000 in spending reductions compared to the 2011 - 2012 budget:
    •$74,225 from the elimination of two custodial and bus driver positions. One position is vacant and the other would result in a layoff.
    •$50,000 from cutting the sports budget in half. This would result in either only varsity sports staying intact or sports teams being combined with Dolgeville’s teams.
    •$20,000 from eliminating a portable stage.
    •$18,500 from eliminating the driver’s education program.
    The reductions also include $20,000 less spending on school field trips, $5,214 less on band field trips, $2,500 less on refurbishing band instruments and $17,000 less in a variety of other areas.
    Also on the ballot
    A second proposition on the June 19 ballot will ask voters to consider letting the district use about $30,000 of capital reserve money to repair the walk-in cooler and refrigerator in the school cafeteria.
    The original equipment was purchased in 1997 and is no longer functioning effectively, so it is in need of repair, Russom said.
    There also is a vacancy on the board of education, after board member Jay Countryman recently resigned. The board of education is still in the process of determining how to fill that position.

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