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More budget cuts expected for schools

School officials seek ways to cut costs

Posted: January 8, 2012 - 1:02am
Grovetown Middle School pupils fill the hallways as they change classes. This school year the school system lost more than $15 million in state funds and officials fear more funding cuts next year.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Grovetown Middle School pupils fill the hallways as they change classes. This school year the school system lost more than $15 million in state funds and officials fear more funding cuts next year.

Twitter @DonnieFetter

To millions of people, a new year starts the process of trimming some fat from their waistlines.

To Columbia County school officials, the new year starts the forced process of trimming money from what they consider an already anemic budget.

“We’re expecting a shortfall of about $10 million” in state funding, schools Superintendent Charles Nagle said of the system’s 2012-13 school year budget preparations.

Such shortfalls, though, are nothing new.

State lawmakers slashed education spending statewide by nearly $500 million from 2003 to 2009 through “austerity” cuts, reductions in the Quality Basic Education funding formula.

Since 2002, the county has lost more than $73.5 million in state education funding. In the current school year, the system lost more than $15.7 million in funding because of state budget cuts, according to the school system.

Through the Quality Basic Education formula, school systems receive funding based on pupil population. But in recent years, officials say, the funding has not matched the growth.

School system Controller Pat Sullivan noted in an e-mail that in the age of austerity reductions the pupil population in Columbia County has grown by 22 percent. But the county’s state education funding grew by only 8 percent during that time.

“(That) means we have to make up the 14 (percent) difference somewhere. ... So you figure on a general fund budget of $175 million, 14 (percent) of that is $24.5 million we have lost this year we should be receiving from the state,” Sullivan said.

To overcome the budget shortfall last year, the school board voted to raise property taxes by a half-mill, which resulted in about $1.9 million of added revenues.

In addition to raising taxes, the board employed such cost-cutting measures as delaying the purchase of new textbooks to save about $2.37 million, saving about $300,000 by cutting instructional spending, and eliminating a $950,000 contingency fund for payroll previously in place in case more teachers were needed.

They also took money out of the system’s reserve fund, increased class sizes and cut teaching positions.

More of the same measures might be needed for next school year.

“If everything holds like it is and we’re able to cut some teaching positions with larger class sizes, I may be able to save $2 million,” Nagle said. “We’re hoping to have a local (tax) digest growth that may give us an extra $2 million, leaving us with $6 million to make up.

“Where that will come from though, I don’t know.”

Nagle said he intends to meet with the school board this month to discuss means to overcome the deficit.

STATE AUSTERITY REDUCTIONS IN COLUMBIA COUNTY SCHOOLS

Fiscal Year State Cut State Allocation Pupil Population

2002-03 $1,686,001 $70,772,932 19,220

2003-04 $3,537,178 $73,117,983 19,829

2004-05 $4,152,207 $76,347,157 20,335

2005-06 $4,152,170 $81,934,756 21,180

2006-07 $2,173,189 $90,054,653 21,924

2007-08 $1,851,592 $96,964,965 22,239

2008-09 $6,735,658 $102,233,258 22,508

2009-10 $18,560,690 $96,399,771 23,069

2010-11 $14,982,958 $97,140,021 23,429

2011-12 $15,749,080 $92,881,684 23,429

Source: Columbia County Board of Education

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Comments (3)

juanrandle

online education

In the world today, a young lady who does not have a college education just is not educated. Especially with our busy life who has time but look for High Speed Universities for faster education at your leisure

Bob Munger

School Budget Cuts

In this economic environment, cuts are an unfortunate reality, but one would hope that we can avoid further cuts to teachers.

We at the Augusta Greenway Alliance have some ideas that could lead to healthier children while lowering the cost of busing and transportation.

One of the initiatives to be studied by our proposed Georgia Alternative, Sustainable Transportation Act would include alternative multipurpose greenways that connect neighborhoods to schools.

These routes could allow students to safely walk or ride bicycles to school; or even parents to transport their kids with golf cars and personal transport (low speed electric vehicles which are locally manufactured) without driving their gas-powered automobiles.

Imagine, for instance, a route along Euchee Creek connecting to the Greenbrier cluster of schools. Imagine a trail along Reed Creek connecting to Lakeside HS. These land areas are protected greenspace currently owned by Columbia County.

Considering that the current rate of global automobile proliferation bodes ill for the future price of gasoline, it might be an ideas whose time has come.

Little Lamb

Not Logical

Here is an assertion not backed up with facts from the article above:

Through the Quality Basic Education formula, school systems receive funding based on pupil population. But in recent years, officials say, the funding has not matched the growth. School system Controller Pat Sullivan noted in an e-mail that in the age of austerity reductions the pupil population in Columbia County has grown by 22 percent. But the county’s state education funding grew by only 8 percent during that time. “(That) means we have to make up the 14 (percent) difference somewhere. . . .

No it does not, Pat. You have produced no evidence that a 22% increase in students must be matched by a 22% increase in expenses. It is well established in businesses that economies of scale are realized when an enterprise gets bigger. It is entirely reasonable that an 8% increase in income can service a 22% increase in students quite adequately.

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