CATAWISSA R.R. - Athletes, musicians and performers in the Southern Columbia Area School District will be paying a $50 fee to participate in their activities next year because of a new school board policy.

The district's board of education set the parameters for the pay-to-participate program, starting with the 2014-2015 school year, at Monday's meeting. It will be one fee for the entire school year per student, with a $100 per family maximum fee.

The board also approved the list of extracurricular activities that fall under the pay-to-participate umbrella: baseball, boys and girls basketball, cheerleading, boys and girls cross country, field hockey, football, boys and girls soccer, softball, boys and girls track and field, weightlifting, wrestling, ski club, musical director activities (the Encore program), drama club, jazz band, choral director activities (the gospel choir), band front and Future Business Leaders of America.

Both motions were approved on a 5-3 vote with directors Michael Yeager, Gail Zambor Schuerch, Charlene Cove, John Yocum and Charlie Porter voting yes and Tim Vought, Thomas Reich and Joseph Klebon voting no. The board's ninth seat is vacant.

The fee will also apply to seventh- and eighth-graders who participate in boys and girls basketball, cheerleading, boys and girls cross country, field hockey, football and girls soccer.

Furlough changeup

The pay-to-participate fee is expected to raise about $20,000, a small part of a budget deficit for the 2014-15 school year that's estimated at $1 million. At a May 12 budget information meeting, the board also discussed eliminating two positions in the music department and one in family and consumer science, not replacing a paraprofessional, Transitions employee and a high school English teacher who are retiring, and replacing a middle school English teacher who is retiring with existing staff. The initial budget also showed adding a middle school math teacher, but that will not happen.

Initially, music teachers Deborah Breech and Diane L. Wittig Musser and family and consumer science teacher Megan Habowski were designated for furlough, but in a resolution passed Monday, only Musser will be furloughed.

Habowski is certified in the area of elementary education, where another employee, Rebecca Maley, currently serves. Therefore, Habowski will take Maley's position and Maley will be furloughed at the end of the year.

In addition, Breech expects to be certified in English prior to the completion of the school year. If that happens, she will be properly certified in an area in which a less senior employee serves, in which case the other employee could be bumped.

The board passed a resolution to furlough Musser and Maley at the end of the school year. Action on the third furlough is deferred until the school year is completed.

Cuts will 'devastate'

Cove discussed the budget problems and how these cuts would affect the music program.

"These cuts will devastate the music program. We are losing people who are vital to this program," she said. "I hope, that if things change and the budget improves, that we can revitalize the programs in the future."

Monday night's meeting came on the night before the districtwide vote on a referendum question about raising property taxes, which is allowed through the Act 1 state tax reform program. The additional revenue would be used to help balance the district's budget for 2014-2015.

Board members said during the discussion on the staffing cut resolution that if the referendum is approved, the plan to curtail programs and furlough employees would not be enacted.