OESJ board adopts proposed budget

ST. JOHNSVILLE – The first budget for the newly merged Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District would allow the district to improve its educational programs without increasing taxes next year.

At its organizational meeting April 18, the OESJ Board of Education adopted a roughly $18.1 million proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year.

Calling for no increase in taxes, the new district’s tax levy – about $4.83 million – is equal to the two separate levies paid by Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville residents this school year, a news release said.

OESJ residents will vote on the proposed budget May 21. Polls are open from noon to 8 p.m. at the David H. Robbins Elementary School in St. Johnsville.

As a result of the merger, the district is set to receive about $1.47 million in state merger incentive aid next year, the release said.

The state will maintain the current level of merger incentive aid during the next five years, after which it will decrease 4 percent a year until 2026-27.

The district also will get an increase of about $300,000 in basic operating aid compared to what the two former districts combined received in the last state budget. The increase in aid will allow the district to increase staffing and improve educational programs.

“Leading up to the merger, the two districts were in fiscal crisis and had experienced years of cuts,” Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Patrick Michel said in the release. “The merged district is no longer in such a crisis. With the increased aid, the new Board of Education now has the opportunity to improve the quality of education while providing financial stability for the district for years to come.”

The district’s budget proposal calls for adding an English language arts coach, a math coach and a kindergarten teacher.

Funding for two full-time librarians also is proposed. The two districts each currently have one part-time librarian, the release said.

A current part-time prekindergarten teaching position would be made full-time if the proposal passes.

The merged district will offer full-day universal pre-kindergarten at both its elementary schools.

The budget also would bring back driver’s education.

St. Johnsville has not had a driver’s education program in many years, the release said, while Oppenheim-Ephratah cut its program for this year.

The purchase of nearly $450,000 in computer hardware and software is included in the budget, as is the purchase of two buses. While funding is included in the budget to pay for the two buses, the merged district is eligible for 90 percent state reimbursement on bus-purchase costs.

The 2013-14 budget proposal also allocates $480,000 for district reserves.