Voters in the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District will go to the polls on May 21 to vote on the district’s first budget.
The $18,088,119 proposal calls for a tax levy of $4,830,151, which is equal to the two separate levies paid by Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville residents this year.
“The budget does not include a tax increase and does not call for any borrowing,” district Treasurer Karen Mettler said at Monday evening’s public hearing on the proposed 2013 – 2014 budget. She added the district would hold off on establishing its tax rate until final assessment figures and the state’s equalization rates are known. “That information is not available until summer, and the tax rate could differ between towns depending on how they are assessed, so district will wait until August to adopt its tax rate.”
As a result of the merger, the new district is set to receive $1,466,161 in state merger incentive aid next year in addition to regular state aid.
The district will also see the restoration of nearly $401,000 in state aid that was lost by the two former districts as a result of the state’s gap elimination adjustment.
The budget proposal calls for adding an English language arts coach and a math coach for the coming school year, as well as the addition of a kindergarten teacher.
Additionally, a pre-kindergarten teaching position will be made full-time and the district will offer a full-day universal pre-kindergarten program at both of its elementary schools.
Funding for two full-time librarians is in the proposed budget, which will also bring back the driver’s education program. The budget also includes funding for a bus mechanic and driver, a business teacher, a special education teacher, a remedial math teacher, a Spanish teacher and a part-time information technology technician.
When asked by Oppenheim resident Mary Mosher if the district has hired anyone to fill the openings, board of education President Susanne Sammons said no.
“We expect to retain everyone we already have in the two separate districts, but no one has been hired as of yet,” said Sammons. She added no decisions have been made yet as to what building teachers will be assigned to. “There could be instances of elementary teachers getting moved to the middle school. We’re not sure about that yet.”
The purchase of nearly $450,000 in computer hardware and software is included in the proposed budget, as is the purchase of two buses — a 65 passenger and a 30-passenger vehicle. While funding is included in the budget to pay for the two buses, the district is eligible for 90 percent state reimbursement on bus purchase costs. Following the merger study’s recommendations, the budget also allocates $480,000 for district reserves.
If the proposal were to be defeated by voters, Mettler said the school district could opt to enact a contingency budget, which would total $17,903,533.
Page 2 of 2 - “This would require $184,586 to be taken out of the budget,” she said.
Fielding questions that were not specifically related to the budget proposal, Superintendent Laura Campione Lawrence said Monday evening the district would finalize a chain of command as to who would report to who before the start of the school year and Mettler said the district would look to hire a cafeteria supervisor to oversee the cafeterias in the two elementary schools, middle school and high school.
“It’s going to take time, but the district is beginning to take shape,” said Sammons.
The polls for the May 21 budget vote will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at David H. Robbins Elementary School in St. Johnsville.
The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville school district will begin operations on July 1.