Columbia retains tax options
School board passes preliminary budget, awaits funding proposals from governor Columbia retains tax options BY K. SCOTT KREIDER, Correspondent
The Columbia School District board approved a proposed preliminary 2013-14 budget on Thursday, signing off on a $21.7 million spending plan that would allow the district to increase taxes beyond the index rate of 2.5 percent.
Board members said that when the final budget is adopted in June it would probably look very different than the preliminary budget. Yet, passing the preliminary budget now was necessary in order to be eligible for exceptions that would allow for a tax increase above the 2.5-percent index in case the state reduces funding to the district.
"Our plan is not to exceed the index," Superintendent Barry Clippinger said in a phone interview on Friday. "There will be cuts made somewhere," Clippinger said, "but if we have cuts from the state, it might be very hard for us to make up the difference."
Clippinger said that the board would not begin discussion on where to make cuts until the state budget is passed in February.
"Until we know what the governor is going to do, we are going to leave every possible option open," board president Tom Strickler said in an interview after the meeting.
"The problem is, the governor could actually propose a huge reduction (in funding) from last year," Strickler said, "If we don't go for an exception now, we can't do anything down the road."
As it stands, the $21,780,393 proposed preliminary budget would require a tax increase from 26.0 mills to 28.0 mills -- an annual increase of $61.25 for a $100,000 home, a 7.7-percent increase.
Clippinger said the district faces a stagnant tax base, and cuts in state funding could be especially damaging.
The proposed preliminary budget will be available for public review on the district's website: www.columbia.k12.pa.us. The board members will act to adopt the preliminary budget at their next committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.