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Students head back to school as Columbia Borough School District kicks off the 2018-19 school year on Monday, August 20, 2018.

When: Columbia borough school board meeting, May 7.

What happened: During a meeting held remotely on Zoom, the board adopted a $27.13 million proposed general fund budget for the 2020-21 school year with no tax increase.

Overview: The school district’s real estate tax rate is set at 26.46 mills. Taxpayers with an average assessed property would pay $2,470 in taxes. Overall, the district projects revenues of $26.09 million in 2020-21, down 1.73% from 2019-20, and predicts $27.13 million in expenses, up 1.94% from the current year.

Changes: Since the budget’s initial proposal, said chief of finance and operations Keith Ramsey, revenue projections for next school year have dropped over $900,000 due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The district will face a $1.04 million deficit between revenues and expenses. Surplus funds from the current school year will be used to cover this deficit, Ramsey said.

Expenses: The $515,174 increase in expenses is attributed to a $231,601 increase in salaries, a $166,471 increase in contracted services, and a $143,202 increase in benefits. Among higher salary costs, Ramsey said, are a 3.15% increase in teacher salaries, 3.0% increase in administrative salaries and the addition of a life skills support teacher, at $55,000. The district will reserve $1.2 million for charter school services, up $200,000 from the current year, and $300,000 in tuition for River Rock Academy, up $150,000.

Benefits: The district is set to contribute 34.51% of its payroll, or $3.1 million, toward employee pensions in 2020-21, up 0.22% from the current year. Because of a decline in interest rates and an increase in stock market volatility, contributions could rise so the system can reach its average growth of 6.5%, Ramsey said.

What’s next: The district expects to adopt a final budget in June.

In other news: The board accepted the retirement of Sharon Raup as the district’s director of special education, effective June 30. To fill this vacancy, the board approved an agreement with the Chester County Intermediate Unit to provide an interim director for the 2020-21 school year, at a cost of $500 per day.

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