CATAWISSA R.R. - Southern Columbia Area School Board passed its proposed $18 million balanced budget Tuesday at the cost of teacher furloughs and a $50 fee to parents for students to participate in extracurricular activities.

The budget, listing revenues and expenditures of $18,787,210, comes with a tax increase of 2.3173 mills in Columbia County - from 37.3627 to 39.68 mills - and a .16 mills increase for Northumberland County, from 53.02 to 52.86. The increase represents the 2.7-percent index the district can raise taxes each year due to the Act I Tax Reform Act, and an exception received because of the payment that must be made to the Pennsylvania State Education Retirement Fund, which will raise another $126,000 in taxes.

The district made a number of cuts to staffing and other programs to help balance a $1 million budget deficit it started with in the budgeting process (See box). Southern Columbia had hoped to pass a referendum for a tax increase but was soundly defeated by voters in both counties with only eight percent of the voters voting "yes."

Voting for the budget were directors Joe Klebon, Timothy Vought, John Yocum, Michael Yeager, Thomas Reich, Charlene Cove and Gail Zambor Schuerch. Director Charlie Porter was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

The budget will be available for public inspection for 30 days, but a special meeting would be needed to approve the final spending plan because the board's two June meetings are scheduled for June 9 and 16.

In other business:

- The board approved a memorandum of understanding between them and AFSCME Local 1864 and Council 86 for all non-instructional union employees over health insurance.

The memo amends the contract between the two parties, allows employees to pick between two health plans, one of them with a higher deductible.

Those who choose the plan with the higher deductible will have a lower co-payment and the district will contribute up to $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for families into a health savings account.

- The firm of Wagner, Dreese, Elsasser and Associates, P.C. was selected to audit the district's financial records for the year ending June 30 at a cost not to exceed $14,700.

- Student Christian Rutkoski was hired by the district as a student custodial worker, and Casey Bernhard and Trystanne Toczlyousky were named student clerical workers for the summer months at minimum wage and not to exceed 29 hours a week.