Tuesday, May 3, 2011

School meeting: Few people, no tax hike and salary freeze announced

Three things about tonight's school board community meeting held at the high school auditorium to discuss the 2011-12 budget and the funding challenges and cut the district was considering.

First, about a month ago, there was a similar meeting held to seek ideas on possible cuts and spending ideas. At that meeting there were more than 150 people in attendance and it was a good and what I thought productive meeting. At that meeting, Tom Strickler, school board president, promised another meeting to update the community on the spending plan and potential cuts in staff, educational programs and spending.

That meeting was tonight at 7 p.m. So, what happened, I will tell you in a few paragraphs.

But let's start with those in attendance, Very, very poor. If there were 40 people there, that was a stretch. So why? Well, just thinking out loud. One, perhaps it was because the board announced at the last meeting, there would be no tax increase and that satisfied most people. Two, people didn't know about it. That's lame and an excuse I am hearing far too often around town and quite frankly I am tired of hearing about that. I will not get on my soap box about this, so I will end point two now. Three, there was a threat of rain and that kept people away. Again, hogwash. I could go on and on about why there were so few people, but I won't.

So, here are the other two things that I mentioned above. First as stated at the last meeting and again tonight by Strickler and Superintendent Dr. Barry Clippinger, there will be no tax increase for the upcoming fiscal year. Hats off to the board and administration for working toward that goal. The second good piece of news, which added onto what was announced last month, that the members of the Columbia Education Association, along with the district's other staff, agreed to take a one-year pay freeze.

The CEA voted on Friday to approve the pay freeze by an overwhelming margin.

The school district's 2011-12 budget has a proposed revenue of $20,000,235 and expenditures of $20,619,331. To balance the budget, unless additional funds become available, Dr. Clippinger said, the district would use $350,000 from its general fund reserve and another $264,096 from its capital reverse fund.

Clippinger also explained how much money taxpayers would get from gaming funds in terms of tax relief for those who filed exemptions.

Most cuts in staffing were due to retirements. For the next school year, Clippinger said there would be one less middle school English teacher and high school science teacher, along with changes in the instructional support staff, foreign language, school psychology and special education.

Also eliminated would be a hall monitor at the high school, library assistants, EAP tutors, custodians at the district administrative center and Park Elementary, plus the reassignment of a custodial classification. Also decreased were curriculum revision, staff development, technology upgrades, conference ad mileage and athletic equipment and uniform purchases.

“We are not eliminating positions or programs. We did reduce some, but not eliminating them,” Clippinger said.

Prior to a brief question and answer period, Strickler announced the extra-curricular and drama staffs have given back another $22,700 in salary back.

“We are deeply grateful for our teaching staff for taking their freeze,” Strickler said.

Questins from residents included financial issues and how to review a copy of the 2011-12 school budget, which will approved by the school board next week.

The meeting lasted around 45 minutes.

For more, check out the district's web site: www.columbia.k12.pa.us.com.

Want to be notified of meetings?

On this site, I have a link to the Columbia School District's web site (www.columbia.k12.pa.us). On that site, there is a link to public meetings. At tonight's sparsely attended public meeting, Tom Strickler, school board president, announced two things.
First, residents can access the site and sign up for email alerts concerning public meetings. Also, it was announced that probably in the fall, various community committees will be formed with the school district to discuss programs and other information,

Tide vaults to second

The Columbia girls' softball team is now second in the power ratings, up from fifth: http://tripletdad33.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/softball-aa1.pdf