The Columbia School Board unanimously approved its budget for the 2020-21 school year at its regular September meeting Thursday night.
The budget shows the district will get $22,779,383 in revenue compared to $25,226,205 in expenditures, meaning it is $2,446,822 in the red overall.
Columbia Superintendent Chris Grode, however, pointed out that the school district’s budget last year also projected a deficit but ended with a surplus of about $700,000.
“Right now we’re budgeted to be in the red, and I’m hoping we can make the same movement,” Grode said.
The largest deficit is in the operations and maintenance fund, which is in the red by $2,383,974.
Grode said that is not worrisome because most of that is from the two large projects the district is working on this year: the heating, ventilation and air conditioning project and roof work.
“That was a planned deficit, and we’ll be OK,” Grode explained. “There’s some big projects that are done out of operations and maintenance. Usually, those are done out of capital outlay, but when they did their bonds last year and refinanced their bonds, they put them into O&M.”
Other funds in the budgets with deficits are the educational, debt service and fire prevention and safety funds, which have deficits of $793,243, $47,010 and $82,350, respectively.
Grode also pointed out that this year’s budget is more uncertain than is typical because of the pandemic.
“It’s the best guess. It’s the worst case scenario,” he said.
“You’re trying to plan for every possibility and every eventuality,” Grode added. “When it comes down to it, you’re trying to give the best education you can at the best cost to taxpayers.”
Grode pointed to the district not knowing how much it will need to spend on cleaning supplies or personal protective equipment like plastic glass and uncertainty surrounding how often the district will be using in-person instruction as significant variables that could affect the budget.
“It’s really just a wait and see,” he said. “It’s hard to explain, but until you’ve done remote learning and watched teachers planning and teaching the class, it is a completely different strategy than what you would have in the classroom.”