ATHENS — It was a productive end of the school year for the Athens Area School District’s Board of Education. The board approved the final 2019-2020 budget at Tuesday’s meeting and also announced they had reached an agreement on a new contract for the district’s support staff.

The final budget will come in at $40,370,610, which was $297,234 more than the budget that was presented at the May 20 meeting. Business manager Laura Perry explained that expanded capital projects were the main reason for the change. The school district will run at a $872,486 deficit with the new budget.

Athens Superintendent Craig Stage is happy with the final version — especially with no tax increases being dished out to the taxpayers.

“I have to tell you it’s a big relief. We worked really hard on the budget ... we were very conservative budgeters. We would much rather have a deficit and not over-anticipate our revenues. While it looks large, we have a fund balance to use that money, so with our conservative budgeting measures we are always in good shape,” said Stage, who wanted to stress that, “(there will be) absolutely zero tax increase.”

Stage was also excited about the new contact with the support staff that will run through 2025.

“We’ve been able to accomplish two contracts. One with the teachers and now with the support staff and we don’t have to worry about negotiating contracts again until 2024, 2025,” Stage said. “It’s a huge relief. We’re very thankful for the people that we have in our district and we’re happy to have this agreement and it compensates everybody very fairly.”

Early in Tuesday’s meeting, the school district honored the Harlan Rowe Science Olympiad team which placed 15th in the nation recently. Stage gave out certificates of appreciation to the team’s coaches.

Another special presentation was made to longtime Harriet Child and SRU Elementary secretary Dolores Smith, who is retiring after more than 45 years of service to the district.

“She is a wealth of knowledge. She is a historian. She cares for everybody. She took me under her wing when I came and helped put me straight a few times. We can replace the position, but we can never replace her. We will miss her greatly,” Stage said of Smith.

Smith said it “feels great” to retire and she enjoyed “the kids and teachers” most over her 45-year career.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or editor@morning-times.com.

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