School budget vote is Tuesday, May 17

Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District residents will head to the polls on Tuesday, May 17, to decide on a $21,993,284 proposed budget for the 2022-23 school year.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. at the Jr./Sr. High School and the Elementary School. For voter information, please visit the Budget and Taxes page.

The budget proposal represents an increase in spending of $696,223, or 3.27%, over the current year. If approved, it would result in a tax levy increase of 1.98%, or $98,859, which is below the district’s limit of 3.36% as defined by New York’s property tax levy cap legislation. A simple majority (50% plus one vote) is needed to pass.

“The goal in crafting the proposed spending plan was to preserve and improve upon our academic program without placing an unnecessary burden on taxpayers,” said Superintendent Adam Heroth.

A majority of the increase in spending ($480,547) comes from non-discretionary costs including contractual obligations for salaries and health insurance, as well as the addition of several positions to meet student/district needs. The added positions include a Spanish teacher, a special education teacher and a custodian/bus driver.

Expenses will be offset in large part by savings of $305,012 that the district expects to realize by bringing a special education program back in-house from BOCES. In addition, the district will see an increase of $1.5 million in state aid in 2022-23 – a boost that stems from the state Legislature’s commitment to fully fund foundation aid by the year 2023-24 – as well as an increase in building aid generated from recently completed capital projects.

Heroth said this year’s proposed budget is part of a five-year strategic plan to maintain fiscal stability.

“The district’s strategic approach to budgeting will allow us to continue to balance the educational needs of our students with what taxpayers can afford,” Heroth said.

The district will add a new reading program at the elementary level and will continue to develop an agriculture, business and technology graduation pathway for high school students.

Federal grant money continues to support the district’s focus on students’ social-emotional needs and gaps in learning resulting from the pandemic.

Voters will also decide on a proposition to purchase two small buses and one van/SUV using $215,000 from the district’s bus reserve fund, meaning there will be no additional cost to taxpayers.

In addition, voters will be asked to support a proposition to establish a capital reserve fund for 10 years in an amount not to exceed $10 million. A capital reserve fund allows the district to set aside money for future capital improvements to district facilities. Voter approval is required both to establish the fund and for any future expenditures from the fund.