OPPENHEIM - Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District's second proposed budget was voted down 176-114 by residents Tuesday, forcing the district to adopt a contingency budget that will include no tax increase but more cuts.
The second budget proposed a 2.79 percent tax-levy increase, which would have cut spending by $207,000 compared to the 2011-12 budget.
The district now is required by state law to put an $8.4 million contingency budget into effect after voters rejected two proposals.
The district cut another $116,000 from spending to arrive at the contingency plan.
The school district will eliminate the purchase of a new bus and other equipment, including computers and bus cameras.
Superintendent Dan Russom said this morning the school district will take $454,000 from its $849,000 remaining in reserve funds to maintain academic programs. State guidelines say a contingency plan can't spend reserve funds on technological equipment.
"We attempted to listen to the voters by lowering the proposed tax- levy increase, but in these economic times, voters decided against the 2.79 percent increase as well," Russom said in a news release. "Adopting a contingent budget will result in further cuts at the district, and it is another sign that significant changes will have to be made going forward in order to maintain the quality of educational programs provided to students."
The superintendent said he's concerned about the rate the reserve funds are being spent and doesn't know how much longer they will last if the district has to keep adopting contingency budgets.
"We are spending the fund balance relatively quickly. In two to three years, that could be gone," Russom said. "We're on a slippery slope here. I wish I had a solution to this problem, but I really don't at this point."
Sports are another area of concern for residents, and the district only has funding for varsity sports unless it can come to an agreement with another district in the area.
"We are having talks with Dolgeville and St. Johnsville about providing sports programs for our students," Russom said. "It's not really in the hands of the Board of Education which direction they decide is best to move toward."
Residents also voted against a proposition to use $30,000 of capital-reserve money to repair the walk-in cooler and refrigerator in the school cafeteria, 143-130. A press release said the original equipment was purchased in 1997 and is no longer operating effectively, so school officials will examine other repair options.
Russom said he was disappointed both propositions were voted down, but he wasn't surprised.
"I knew after the previous budget went down, this would be very difficult," he said. "I was surprised it went down by such a large margin [however]. I was disappointed that the capital reserve proposal didn't pass. We had the money to do that, but the voters said no to it."
The school district has $1.8 left in its capital reserve funds. The district had to use these funds because they weren't aware of the problem when officials proposed the first budget in May, Rossum said.
The district's previously proposed budget included a 4.5 percent tax-levy increase, which exceeded the state-imposed tax cap for the district. The proposal rejected Tuesday met the tax cap.