Columbia County school board members put their initial stamp of approval Tuesday on a budget for next year that balances by drawing heavily from reserves and cutting the number of educators.
Several weeks of discussions on that $173 million budget focused on making up for a $13 million cut in state funding. While board members made up for last year's state funding reductions with a half-mill tax increase, this year's budget balances without a tax increase and without furloughing school system employees.
"That reflects a full school year without furloughs and without a reduced calendar," Nagle said.
Much of the money, more than $7.5 million, comes from the school system's reserves, Superintendent Charles Nagle said. That reserve is used to maintain the system's cash flow as it pays employees until the year's tax receipts and state funding arrives.
An additional $5 million in cuts came in March, when trustees approved Superintendent Charles Nagle's plan to eliminate about 35 certified teaching positions and nearly 70 paraprofessionals.
Those cuts were made possible by the school system obtaining a waiver from the state to allow slightly larger class sizes.
Remaining gaps will be filled with cuts in maintenance, fuel and other areas, along with an anticipated reduction in the system's electricity bills from Georgia Power Co., Nagle said, along with an expected 2.5 percent increase in the county's tax digest.
"We're counting on that 2.5 percent," Nagle said, noting that the county's tax digest hasn't been fianlized.
Even with the cuts, trustees approved pencilling in three furlough days for next year's calendar that could be used if the planned expense reductions fall short.
Final approval of the budget is expected at the board's June 12 meeting.
Because the school system will be accepting the increase in revenues from higher property assessments, state law requires the board to hold hearings to announce that tax rates won't be rolled back to compensate for those reassessments.
Those hearings, at the school board office on Hereford Farm Road in Evans, are set for 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. July 10, and 8 a.m. July 24
The new principals named Tuesday are Stephanie Reese, who replaces the retiring Brenda Jones at Brookwood Elementary, and Laura Hughes, taking over for the retiring Kay Sanders at North Columbia Elementary.