Columbia County taxpayers likely will not see an increase in school taxes this year under a budget that was tentatively approved by the board Tuesday night.
The system's proposed 2003-04 operating budget projects revenue of $115,647,909 with expenditures of $119,660,291, leaving a $4 million deficit that likely will come out of the system's $28 million reserve. Eighty-nine percent of the budget is for personnel.
"Certainly we don't have a balanced budget, and that's a concern," School Superintendent Tommy Price said. "But there's no way we could have a balanced budget without cutting essential services, which would have a negative impact on educational opportunities for our kids. There's only one way to increase revenue and I'm not recommending that."
Controller Pat Sullivan said there is no specific amount that systems are required to keep on reserve, but it is suggested by that state department 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.
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 an increase in expenditures, from $119,089,821 last year, to $119,660,291 in the 2003-04 school year.
Added to the budget at the meeting Tuesday night was a one-time, 1- percent pay increase -- $500 for certified employees and $250 for auxiliary employees -- for employees with 20 or more years who are at the top of the pay scale and no longer receive annual pay-step increases.
With the state not giving a pay raise this year and with a 20-percent increase in health insurance premiums, those employees will be making less this year, Price told the board in making the recommendation. The incentive will cost the school system $280,426.
The board is expected to give final approval to the budget at the June 24 meeting in Appling. Rollback hearings and the millage rate will be set at meetings scheduled for Aug. 19, 7:30 a.m., at Evans High School, and Aug. 26 at 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Board of Education office in Appling.
* 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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