OPPENHEIM - The Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District will present a budget proposal with a 2.79 percent tax-levy increase to district voters in June.
The Board of Education approved a proposed $8.5 million budget Thursday. Earlier this month, voters rejected the district's proposed $8.5 million budget with a 4.5 percent tax-levy increase.
The first plan exceeded the district's state-imposed cap on the tax-levy increase, which was set at 2.79 percent.
The new budget proposal meets the tax cap.
The school board was able to reduce the tax-levy increase by using $42,000 from the district's fund balance and by not replacing a stage.
The district would be left with a $500,000 fund balance.
The school board considered three options Thursday. They included the adopted plan, a second option that called for a 2 percent tax increase and a third option that called for a contingency budget, which would include no tax increase.
The board unanimously voted for the first option, which would raise taxes by $68,133 and result in the least amount of cuts of the three options.
The school board wanted to avoid making spending cuts.
"[Cuts] leave us in a position where we can't compete with a school that can offer [advanced placement] classes," board member Joanne Capek-Young said.
Capek-Young expressed the same sentiment regarding technology classes.
"You have to compete. You have to have those classes," Capek-Young said. "We need to focus on that, and the only way we can do that is if we can afford it."
To save money, the school board decided not to buy a new stage that Superintendent Dan Russom said would be used six times a year. This would save the district $20,000.
Voters will decide on the new budget proposal June 19.
The new budget proposal includes spending cuts that were included in the previous proposal.
Those cuts include $50,000 from the sports budget, $20,000 from the field trip budget, $18,500 from driver's education, $17,000 from the administrative budget and $5,000 out of band trips.
Another major issue Thursday was what to do with a vacant board seat after the resignation of board member George Perry.
The three options presented in the discussion were to either appoint a new member, hold a special election for the vacancy or give the position to Bruce Carpenter, who finished fourth in the May 15 election.
Neither side argued for the first option, but the six members were split on the remaining two. Board members Susanne Sammons and Capek-Young disagreed, arguing the next person in line from the previous election should get the spot.
Vice President David Rackmyre Jr. said he has received a lot of calls about this situation from people in the community.
"They think they should have a chance to vote again," he said. "They feel like it's a new position, and they want to vote again."
School board member Jennifer Fraiser agreed there should be another election for the final vacancy on the board since there will be another vote for the budget anyway.
"Why not give them the opportunity?" she said.
The school board will decide on the issue in June or July.
The school board Thursday also talked about a possible merger with the St. Johnsville School District.
In an exit survey taken after the May 15 budget vote, voters were asked about a possible merger. Of the 58 voters who were in favor of the budget and answered the question, 42 of them were in favor of a merger. Of the 71 voters who were against the budget and answered this question, 57 of them were in favor of a merger.
Russom isn't sure what's going to happen with the plan, but the board will meet with St. Johnsville's school board within the next week to talk about combining the schools' volleyball teams.
St. Johnsville pulled out of a possible sports merger after Oppenheim-Ephratah voters rejected a merger between the two districts last year.
Russom said he was surprised by the reactions to a possible merger between the two schools.
"It's been such a contentious and volatile issue," he said.