The Ocean City Board of Education on Wednesday gave final approval to a 2015-16 school budget that asks local taxpayers for $125,000 less than it did last year.
At the same time, the total value of taxable real estate increased this year (the city’s ratable base climbed to about $11.3 billion), so Ocean City’s school tax rate will fall by one-third of a penny under the new budget.
The owner of a $500,000 home will pay about $16.54 less in school taxes next year.
School taxes typically make up roughly 25 percent of an Ocean City property owner’s overall tax bill.
About 50 percent goes to municipal taxes, and City Council on April 23 approved a city budget that raises the tax levy by 3.31 percent (read more about the Ocean City municipal budget). The owner of a $500,000 home will pay an extra $43.25 in municipal taxes next year. The rest of a tax bill is made up of county taxes and a small library tax.
The school board approved the budget resolution in a unanimous vote after a public hearing Wednesday (April 29) in which there was no public comment.
For operating expenses, the new budget asks for exactly same amount of money from local taxpayers — $21,965,332 — that it did in the 2014-15 budget. But debt service decreases by about $125,000, largely due to a mandatory refund of $333,599 in unspent capital funds to taxpayers.
The overall budget for 2015-16 is $41,025,294, down from last year’s $43,074,421. The decrease is primarily a function of less spending on capital projects.
Last year was a “big number” for capital outlay, according to interim Business Administrator Mark Ritter, based on paying the balance of a major HVAC project at Ocean City High School and the bulk of a major renovation at Ocean City Primary School.
Parts of those projects factored into tuition calculations for sending district towns, and Ocean City will collect $12,701,622 in tuition, compared to last year’s $10,970,021.
Salaries and benefits account for about $31.8 million (more than 75 percent) of the overall $41 million budget, and that figure remains flat compared to last year, with planned retirements offsetting contractual increases, according to Ritter.
School Choice Aid remains flat at about $2.7 million. There will be no expansion of the program that allows out-of-district students to attend Ocean City schools with the state paying the tuition.
Ritter had said earlier this spring that he believes very strongly that School Choice aid from the state will decrease over time, if not disappear altogether. At the same time the capital projects that factored into increased sending district tuition will fall away.
“It’s going to be a problem down the road,” Ritter said. “It’s nothing we’re doing right or wrong. It’s just the way the calculation works.”
Some highlights of the new budget offered by the district:
- Technology updates district-wide with new computers at the high school. The school hopes to be a testing center when the SAT college preparatory test goes digital in 2017. The school would need 250 computers.
- Purchase of a 54-passenger bus to be used for co-curricular activities, field trips, special events and athletic events.
- New high school courses in video game programming, sports medicine and AP environmental science.
- Repainting of the Ocean City High School golden dome.
- Banking of the 2 percent cap for potential use in future budgets.