Ocean City High SchoolThe Ocean City Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved a 2014-15 school budget that calls for a 1.5 percent increase to local taxpayers.The district had held the local tax levy flat at $21,640,721 for three consecutive years, but this year’s budget increases the levy by $324,611.The tax rate increases from 21.45 cents per $100 of assessed value to 21.74 cents. The increase of 0.2903 cents means property owners will pay an extra $2.90 in taxes (not including debt service) for every $100,000 of assessed value. The owner of a $500,000 home (whose property was not reassessed) will pay $1,087 in school taxes — an extra $14.51 this year. Factoring in debt service, the same owner will pay an extra $17.90.School taxes represent about 25 percent of a property owner’s tax bill in Ocean City. The municipal government just approved a budget with a 2.57 percent increase to the local tax levy — an increase of $73 to the owner of a $500,000 home. Municipal taxes account for about half of a tax bill, and county taxes make up the other 25 percent.As in recent years, the burden of increased taxes will not be shared equally. More than 4,500 Ocean City homes were reassessed this year as part of a multi-year program to bring assessed values in line with market values. Property owners whose homes values were changed may pay less in school taxes this year.Because the budget falls under the 2 percent cap on tax levy increases, it is not subject to voter approval.Salaries and benefits make up more than 77 percent of the school budget, and teachers are working under a contract that calls for annual 1.99 percent increases.The district will use $1.76 million from a capital reserve fund to help pay for an Ocean City Primary School renovation in summer 2015. The one-time expense brings the total budget for the year to $40,908,874, an increase of $1,841,736 from the 2013-14 budget.As in recent years, the district benefits from the state’s new School Choice program. Ocean City will receive $2.7 million from the state — an increase of $387,100 over last year.The program, now in its third year, allows out-of-district students to apply to attend Ocean City schools — with the state paying Ocean City $13,825 for each student. It has allowed the district to compensate for a shrinking school population and sustain programs without increasing taxes.The number of “Choice” students in Ocean City will increase from 166 to 194. The state had approved a five-percent increase for School Choice districts and Ocean City also received a waiver to enroll siblings of students already accepted into the program.Total enrollment in the Ocean City School District fell from 2,248 in 2000 to 2,045 in 2010. The trend has been offset only by the addition of out-of-district students under the new program.