School officials asked legislators to loosen the purse strings on the state's $900 million reserve fund to help pay for shortfalls when mid-year funding adjustments are made.
Columbia County is expected to lose $2 million in anticipated state revenue, money it will have to make up by dipping into its own $26 million reserve.
"In our budget, 89 percent is personnel and we've already hired those people. Now they are going to cut $2 million. That's a heavy hit to our reserves. We all know there's $900 million in the reserve fund and it would only take $170 million to avoid any cuts in education," said School Superintendent Tommy Price.
State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said he believed that money would be restored.
"I think we are headed in that direction if we have an accurate picture at this point," he said during a last week's meeting between the county's legislative delegation and school trustees.
Most of the other issues discussed by the delegation and school officials concerned restoring local control to the school system.
"The word has been accountability," Price said. "If you are going to hold people accountable, then let them make local decisions. Top-down controls are not effective and are not well received."
One example he cited is the mandated class sizes instituted in the governor's education reform legislation. During the school year, if a new pupil comes into a school and pushes a class size over the limit, then a whole new class must be formed and a new teacher hired.
"By law we would have to break up a class and form a new class. One child - because of growth we've got to disrupt a whole grade level. That's not going to be acceptable."
Price said there should be some leeway or at least a time period when classes can no longer be disrupted.
The disparity in funding for foreign language was also discussed. Price said foreign language should be one of the options schools systems can decide to offer for enrichment classes, in addition to physical education, art and music.
Price also asked the legislators to consider using the special purpose local option sales tax as revenue for the maintenance and operations budget. Now, it can only be used for capital improvements and technology.
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