By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Board of Education introduced a school budget for the 2020-21 school year that keeps school taxes stable.
The total budget is $41,555,147, down from $41.6 million last year. The bulk of the funding for the spending plan will come from $23.8 million in local tax revenue, School Business Administrator Timothy Kelley explained Monday.
Kelley presented the proposed budget during the March 18 Board of Education meeting. He called it a solid budget.
The owner of a home assessed at $500,000 will pay roughly $1,080 in local school taxes for the year, about the same as last year’s figure.
Homeowners will see a decrease in their school tax bills of $5 for the year under the new budget.
Some of the areas Kelley looks at when creating a budget include the district’s strategic plan, classroom needs, operational needs and state-mandated requirements and programs, he noted.
“We try to present a budget that is responsible and also meets the district’s and the students’ needs,” Kelley said.
He explained how there were some savings in this year’s preliminary budget.
“This past year the school district paid off some bonds that were issued for the Intermediate School improvements, so that decreased the amount for debt service,” Kelley said.
With the proposed school budget, the projected tax rate is 0.215 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, down from 0.216 in the 2019 budget.
Ocean City’s tax base has gone up by $107 million this year, giving the city nearly $12 billion in tax ratables, which helped the district present a budget without an increase in the school tax rate.
While there is a healthy ratable base in the community, the district continues to wrestle with declining enrollment.
There are 2,150 students currently, which includes about 193 students from the School Choice Program.
The program allows students from outside of Ocean City to attend the school district and for the 2020-21 school year it will contribute $2.6 million to the overall budget.
“Every year we face declining enrollment and that means less revenue coming in from sending districts. That being said, the overall tax rate is the same tax rate that was presented to the voters back in 2013,” School Board President Joseph Clark said in an interview.
Clark commended Kelley for presenting another school budget that is prudent, while still providing the many services Ocean City students and families come to expect.
“Tim has done an amazing job. He looks at five to 10 years into the future. He looks at what the other districts are doing,” Clark said.
He continued, “We are very blessed that we are in a community that is maintaining a steady ratable increase and our property taxes are remaining steady. We are being very prudent with expenditures.”
Clark said one of the ways that the district has made sure to hold down expenses is by reducing the budgets by 5 percent in all three schools — the high school, intermediate school and primary school.
“What has helped us sustain the programs is the steady increase in the ratables,” Clark added. “We live under the 2 percent cap and we are giving back to the taxpayer.”
A public hearing on the proposed budget and a final vote by the board are scheduled at the Board of Education meeting on April 29 at 7 p.m.
However, that date could change amid the COVID-19 outbreak, with schools closed until further notice.