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Oppenheim-Ephratah's budget voted down again, more cuts await

By JOLEEN FERRIS

ST. JOHNSVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) - A tiny, rural, local school district is home to a big, yet unwelcome distinction.

"Very surprised that, you know, only two budgets throughout New York State weren't passed and unfortunately I hate to be on that list of one of the ones that occurred," said Oppenheim-Ephrata Central School District Superintendent Dan Rossum, who was a bit surprised by the second defeat on Tuesday.

"Historically, the Oppenheim-Ephrata Central School District has supported their budgets, so I don't really have an answer to that question at this point."

The second budget adhered to the property tax cap, with a 2.79% tax increase, down from the proposed 4.5% in May. Cuts were minimal.

Taxpayers defeated the budget for a second time, forcing a contingency budget and 0% tax increase.

The superintendent says he can make that work by eliminating small, non-union employee pay raises and not getting a bus that they'd planned on purchasing. As for why two budget defeats, the superintendent wonders if emotion factored into it.

"This has been a very contentious year in our district. We had a merger vote with St. Johnsville that was very contentious here. A lot of people were supportive but a lot of people were against it and it was very emotional . Are we still experiencing fallout from the merger? I'm not really sure."

The superintendent says that it took more than $1 million from the district's fund balance over the past two years to balance the district budgets, leaving only $400,000-$500,000 in the account.

"We're on a very slippery slope here....we can't depend on large increases in state aid. Obviously we can't depend on even minimal increases in our tax rates our tax levy so I'm not really sure where we're headed here," says Rossum.

The district's next school board meeting is scheduled for Thursday night.

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