Oswego schools budget projects $7 million more in property tax revenue

Oswego School District 308 Administration Office, Route 71, Oswego

Property tax revenues are expected to increase by almost 6% as part of Oswego SD308′s budget for the new fiscal year.

The new fiscal year starts July 1. The proposed $300.6 million budget includes an increase in property tax revenues of $6.9 million or 5.81%

State revenues also are expected to increase from about $109 million to about $113 million in the proposed budget, or about a 4% increase. However, federal funding is expected to drop from about $14.4 million to $9.1 million, or about a 37% decrease.

That decrease is because school districts soon will no longer receive the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. School districts nationwide had received the funds to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew that was coming,” Oswego School District chief financial officer Raphael Obafemi told school board members during their April 22 meeting.

Of the proposed $300.6 million budget, $255.6 million funds the district’s operating fund, which covers day-to-day expenses. The proposed budget includes an increase of $9.8 million in the district’s operating fund.

“If we cut our budget, it’s going to affect the classroom, because that is where the money is.”

—  Raphael Obafemi, Oswego School District chief financial officer

The budget also sets aside $8.7 million for the district’s capital fund and $36.9 million for the district’s debt service fund, which pays for principal and interest on outstanding bonds.

Salaries and benefits comprise 68% of the district’s operating budget expenses. Salaries are set to increase by 5% in the proposed budget, from about $163 million to about $171 million.

“The majority of the money we spend is on people,” Obafemi said. “We spend money on salaries, we spend money on benefits. If we cut our budget, it’s going to affect the classroom, because that is where the money is. We have teachers who teach our kids. We have administrators that support those teachers in the schools.”

He noted that much of the increase can be tied to the fact that ESSER funding had previously been used for salaries and now those funds are going away.

“We had about $3 million in salary funding that we paid out of ESSER that will now, based on the directive from the board about the importance of those positions, such as reading interventionists as well as junior high athletics, we decided to continue to fund through local funds,” Obafemi said. “That accounts for the big chunk of that.”

He also noted the district recently reached new union contracts with its employees.

The district recently gave a series of community workshops about the proposed budget. As Obafemi told board members, the largest source of revenue for the district is local property taxes.

“Community members write us a check twice a year — once in June and then again in September,” he said. “So that was an opportunity to be accountable to them, to explain to them what we do with their money.”

In the proposed budget, property taxes comprise 54% of the district’s revenues. Obafemi described the school district’s annual budget as a moral document reflecting the district’s values, goals and objectives.

He also noted the budget is the source for funding the district’s priorities.

“The budget makes it possible for us to have rigorous curriculum and ambitious instruction,” he said.

The district spends $13,980 per student. Oswego SD308′s enrollment pre-kindergarten through 12th grade is expected to drop 2.7% in the new school year, from 17,068 to 16,614.

The school board is set to vote on the budget in June following a public hearing.