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No tax hike for Oxford Area

School district officials predict next year may be even more challenging

By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY, Special to the Local News

LOWER OXFORD — Property owners in the Oxford Area School District will avoid a school property tax hike this year and keep their school buses.

The school board passed a 2011-12 budget of $55,361,635 at a May 24 meeting. The spending plan represents a decrease from the district's 2010-11 budget of $55,903,020 and reductions in state funding to the school district.

The board kept the real estate tax rate at 29.5479 mills. A mill represents $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

Noting stringent budget cuts this year, Superintendent Raymond Fischer said, "Our progress will continue, though not at the pace as in recent years."

During the budget adoption process, one of the biggest objections from the public arose over a proposal to eliminate busing for students living in Oxford Borough. But school officials found the necessary $135,000 to avoid that possibility.

One policy change adopted by the school board adjusts the fees for sports participation to $75 at the high school and $50 at the Penn's Grove School. Parking permits for high school students are now $50.

Board member Catherine Peabody urged more residents to volunteer at the schools.

"We need it now more than ever," Peabody said.

Board member Kurt Haegele warned taxpayers not to expect the same kind of tax break next year.

"We owed something to the public for the last eight years. We have spent a lot of money to revitalize these buildings," Haegele said, and he warned that district voters may soon see a tax rate increase on a referendum.

Haegele noted state officials are cutting funding to schools and trying to eliminate exceptions to the state's tax rate increase cap for school districts. The loss of the exceptions for retirement benefit funding in particular could hurt the district, he warned