Octorara School District zonepic

The Octorara Area School District sign at Route 41 and Highland Road.

When: Octorara Area school board meeting, Jan. 10.

What happened: District Business Manager Jeff Curtis presented a 2022-23 preliminary draft budget that projects revenues of $58.75 million and expenses of $59.12 million. The deficit of $363,000 will be made up from the district’s fund balance.

Background: The district has not increased the real estate tax rate in the past two years. The largest area of expenses is salaries and benefits, accounting for over 60% of the budget. Contracts with professional and support staff are up in June, and negotiations are underway.

Why it’s important: The budget was drafted using a tax increase of 4.2%, the maximum allowed under the state-designated Act 1 index for the district without requesting an exception or going to a voter referendum.

What happens next: At its next meeting, the board will be asked to approve a resolution committing to raise taxes no more than the index allows. This does not mean taxes will be increased to the full amount, if at all. As more information on funding becomes available, the budget may be revised.

Health and safety: Superintendent Michele Orner reported student absentee rate, normally 5% to 8%, has been running between 15% and 18%. The demand for COVID-19 testing has expanded from three days to four days per week. There are also stresses on staff, with teachers being out due to COVID-19. In response to a question from the board, Orner said there is no specific law requiring the board to follow Chester County Health Department recommendations. At its Jan. 17 meeting, the board will consider a motion to alter the district’s health and safety plan to eliminate the chart that regulates when masking is required based on the number of incidences of COVID-19.

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