Nearly $1 million in added tax dollars won't be enough to keep the Columbia County School System in the black.
Columbia County School Board members voted to keep the millage rate, 17.18, unchanged for the new fiscal year.
Combined with an 8.81 percent growth in the county's tax digest, the move brings in an additional $900,000 to $1 million to the board's coffers.
The vote came at the final state-mandated public forum held by board members on Wednesday at Evans High School.
Georgia law requires any government agency collecting property taxes to hold three public hearings if it does not roll back millage rates after reassessment of property values.
The additional $1 million still won't make up for a $5 million budget shortage.
Schools Superintendent Tommy Price said officials will compensate for the shortage by dipping into the system's almost $27 million reserve fund.
In the first rollback hearing held July 20, Price said that while population growth adds revenue, it also adds costs.
"As we grow, obviously we have a lot more kids to educate," he said. "We need to hire more teachers and build more schools."
In addition to ever-increasing expenses, Price also blames state budget cuts for an unbalanced financial sheet.
State funds provide nearly two-thirds of the system's budget. During the past three years, the state has denied the county $9 million in funding, Price said.
Despite the budget crunch, Price called his office one of the most fiscally responsible in the state.
"Only 15 systems spend less in Georgia," he said.
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