Columbia County Board of Education is expected to tentatively approve the 2002-2003 operating budget Tuesday.
The budget is expected to increase from $110 million this year to $118 million in the 2002-2003 school year. Expenditures for next year are predicted to be about $3.5 million in excess of revenue, but Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price said the system will dip into its $29 million reserve to make up the difference - withdrawing $1.5 million.
"We have to realize a huge percentage of our budget is salary, personnel and benefits, so what we work with we have to be careful with," Board Chairman Wayne Bridges said. "We do have some needs and we are addressing those needs in priority. We are going to have a shortfall, but we are in a position to handle that without a tax increase. What we are looking at so far is some things to improve the quality of our system."
Planning on a five percent growth rate in the tax digest, local property tax revenue is expected to generate $39 million, while the state has allocated $75 million. The school system's general fund will only receive $75,000 next year in federal revenue, up from $50,000 this year.
The state allocation includes a 3.25 teacher pay increase. But the local board plans to extend that to all school employees.
The lion's share of the budget is devoted to pupil instruction - including teachers. Price said 89 percent of the current budget is spent on salaries and benefits. That amounts to $85 million, up from $79 million this year. The budget includes plans to add 23 new teaching positions at a cost of $1.1 million.
Other positions that will likely be added next year include: a school psychologist ($52,000), four additional bus drivers and a transportation aid ($41,000), three additional custodians ($52,000), four and a half-time middle school foreign language teachers ($232,000), five additional elementary enrichment teachers ($257,000), 14 new paraprofessional positions ($236,000) and new textbooks ($507,000).
The new Grovetown Middle School - which is set to open mid-year - will add start-up costs to the tab. The principal, half-time assistant principal, five custodians, six food service workers, three secretaries, media clerk and media specialist are expected to cost $626,389. Officials are anticipating $300,000 in equipment costs.
School Board Member Regina Buccafusco has also proposed starting a $200,000 local grant pool where schools could apply to receive grants as much as $25,000. The grant applications, she said, could then be developed further and used to apply for national grants.
"We always talk about putting money into bricks and mortar and I wanted a pool of money that could go toward instruction," Ms. Buccafusco said.
Proposed additions to the school system's budget this year include:
The creation of a position for assistant director of personnel - $76,800, including benefits.
The addition of 10 technical support positions in elementary and middle schools - $375,000.
A server support specialist and a sound system technical, each at $38,000.
A clerical position for public relations and administration - $23,000. They've been paying $6,000 to pay pupils to do the work.
A secretary will be added to the transportation department - $29,500.
Converting the classroom kitchen at Harlem High School to a professional foods facility for the ProStart program - $175,000.
Implementation of a pilot career center at Harlem High School - $25,000.
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