CATAWISSA RR - The Southern Columbia Area School Board approved Monday a $95,590 refund to the district from the general contractor of the last construction project.

The firm, eciConstruction LLC, of Dillsburg, bid more than what was spent for the renovation of the middle and high school building, said board President Mike Yeager Tuesday.

The news that $95,590 will be credited back to the district is "great," he said.

The money will be put into a contingency fund to be used for the middle or high school until each company involved with the renovation projects submit their final bills and the accounts are closed out, he said.

Once this happens, the money can be spent on any kind of project or on paying off the loan, Yeager said.

The $17 million construction project, which started in 2010, included renovations to the elementary school, a new middle school area, a new gym and renovated high school office areas.

The general contracting bid decreased from $9.3 million to $9.2 million.

The board also approved five change orders that increased the district's total bill of the project by $9,546 for work related to the auditorium lobby floor, mechanical piping near the auditorium, water-damaged ceiling panels caused by leaks from the existing roof, installation of metal ceiling panels and replacing the existing pavement behind the weight room.

Preliminary budget approved

The school board also approved the 2014-15 preliminary budget of $19,408,113 with approximately a $1 million hole to fill. Expenditures equal $20,542,392.

Last year's $18,089,377 budget was balanced by increasing property taxes: Northumberland County property owners saw a 2.91 increase in real estate millage, raising the rate to 52.86 mills, and Columbia County property owners saw a 1.6-mill boost to 35.8 mills.

Yeager said the district is legally allowed to increase the millage rate this year by 2.7 percent, which equates to less than a mill of taxes.

However, the board approved the option of filing for exceptions to raise the property millage above the maximum rate allowed by law if the board members find it necessary to do so.

Revenue is expected to be $11,579,396 from local sources, $7,631,381 from state sources and $298,336 from federal sources.

Revised scheduled

The board also approved a revised schedule due to school closings over this winter season.

Classes will now be in session Feb. 17, April 16 and April 17. These were originally planned as school holidays. Additionally, the school year will be extended by two days: Friday, June 6, and Monday, June 9.

Additional cancellations will add make-up days to the end of the school year, Superintendent Paul Caputo said.