Columbia County taxpayers likely will not see an increase in school taxes this year under a budget that is under consideration by the school board.
The system's proposed 2003-04 operating budget projects revenue of $115,647,909 with expenditures of $119,042,451, leaving a $3.4 million deficit.
"This is a very lean budget," Superintendent Tommy Price recently told the board. "There's no opportunity for any improvements. We're just maintaining what we have. Unless we find a way to increase revenues or decrease what we have, this is your picture. It's either got to come out of your reserves or a tax increase."
But it's unlikelythat local taxpayers will see a tax increase soon. The school system has built up a healthy $28 million reserve.
Controller Pat Sullivan said no specific amountsare required to keep on reserve, but it is suggested by the state that they keep 15 percent of anticipated expenditures in a rainy-day fund.
Although the system was expecting a $3.6 million deficit last year, the tax digest grew more than expected, providing the additional revenue to cover the shortfall, Price said.
"I don't think we've got to get too excited about a tax increase when we've got such a reserve," he said. "But we've got to turn this thing around. QBE (Quality Basic Education reform act) was supposed to be supported and maintained by the state but it hasn't been."
The budget projects a $1.8 million increase in local revenue because of 5 percent growth in the tax digest and an additional $25,000 from federal sources, but also reflects $357,000 less revenue from state sources, for a total revenue increase of $1.5 million.
The budget reflects a decrease in expenditures, from $119,089,821 last year, to $119,042,451 in the 2003-04 school year.
Officials will take one more look at the budget Tuesday night before the board gives tentative approval to the budget at the June 10 meeting.
* Decrease in school allocations by $178,000
* Increase of $1 million for 20 new teaching positions.
* Nonteaching positions for the new Lewiston Elementary School, $500,000.
* Instructional computer software for middle and high schools, $348,740.
* Pro-Start professional kitchen at Evans High School, $198,500.
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