By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Board of Education on Wednesday night introduced a proposed 2021-22 school budget that will not increase the tax rate.
The total budget for the 2021-22 school year is $42.5 million, up from $41.6 million for the 2020-21 school year.
The bulk of the funding for the spending plan would come from $23.6 million in local tax revenue.
Although the total budget is up from last year, there will not be a school tax increase, explained School Business Administrator Tim Kelley.
That means the owner of a home assessed at $500,000 will pay roughly $1,075 in local school taxes for the year, the same as last year.
“It really is a long process. Tonight is not the approval,” Kelley emphasized. “We are introducing the budget so the budget can go to the county office for review to make sure it meets all the requirements.”
Kelley said that the district has seen a decrease in tuition revenue due to a decline in enrollment by the sending districts.
However, he noted that due to an increase in the valuation of homes in Ocean City, the school tax rate is able to stay unchanged.
The total assessed valuation for Ocean City property increased from $11.9 billion in 2020-21 to $12.1 billion for 2021-22.
The budget will be up for adoption and a public hearing at the April 28 board meeting.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor thanked Kelley and the school staff for their hard work on the budget.
“I want to thank Mr. Kelley and the staff for preparing the budget for the next school year,” Dr. Taylor said. “We begin right away planning for the following year. It is a never-ending cycle to prepare and enact the budget.”
In other matters, there was a discussion about Dr. Taylor’s letter that was sent out on Tuesday announcing the return to full in-person instruction in all of the grades by April 12.
Board of Education Vice President Dr. Patrick Kane, who heads the board’s COVID-19 Committee said in his report Wednesday night, “I think Dr. Taylor summed up so well in her letter yesterday. We discussed what we think will be best practices.”
Dr. Kane noted that the decision to make April 12 the full return to school date was what the district felt was the best time.
“It provides adequate time for our faculty and family to (get COVID) shots, and we all know a full day, what it looks like to return back to the high school, with an early dismissal,” Dr. Kane said.
He explained that the high school will continue to have six periods, but that with the early dismissal, the periods will be shortened. Students will continue to take home a school lunch at the high school.
“We felt it was best if they had lunch off campus,” he said, adding that it was due to mask wearing and social distancing guidelines.
Dr. Kane reiterated that the district has remained open in some form to provide the hybrid learning model for students. The virtual model will continue for all students who opt to remain at home for distance learning.
He also addressed the fluid nature of the pandemic.
“If community prevalence goes up, it could mean we go back to a hybrid schedule or more students participating in virtual,” Dr. Kane said. “You know what we all want, but unfortunately it is a pandemic.”
During the meeting’s public comment session, resident and parent Robert Schaffer expressed his appreciation for the district’s handling of the pandemic.
“At least my son will be able to see his teachers again. It will be a huge thing for him,” Schaffer said. “I have been advocating for my kids to have access to their teachers each day and for a sensible way to reopen.”