The first official business in the Columbia County school system's new main office on Hereford Farm Road took place Tuesday in a special budget study session.
"We kind of have mixed feelings about our first meeting being a special-called meeting, but we'll take it," joked board Chairman Wayne Bridges.
The first official action of the board in the new building was hiring Tommie Riddick as the new assistant principal of Lakeside High School.
"I've been told that this (Evans) is the 32nd best place to live in the country ... and part of that is because of the school system," Riddick said.
He previously served as an assistant principal at Lakeside Middle School.
In other business, school officials examined a proposed $150 million budget for the 2006-07 school year one last time before taking official action. They will likely approve the budget at their next board meeting June 12.
The budget is about $2.1 million more than officials tentatively project the system will earn.
But the deficit likely won't be as dire as it initially seems, Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price told the board.
Price expects a larger mid-term adjustment, when more state money is granted to school systems based on their first semester growth, than predicted and that some items, such as hiring graduation specialists, won't cost as much as predicted.
Price said the budget figures proposed were based on worst-case scenarios.
"We've been very conservative," he said. "I wish it was totally balanced, but I feel very comfortable bringing this budget to you."
School officials only budgeted $1 million in revenue for the mid-term adjustment. Last year, the system received $2.4 million, Price said.
At $15 million more than the previous year, Price recently called the $150 million budget one of the largest increases in recent memory. However, he said the increase was necessary to keep up with state mandates.
New expenditures generated by mandates from state officials for the upcoming school year include 62 new teaching positions and 28 new paraprofessionals, most because of class-size reductions; a 4 percent pay raise for education employees; and a 2.51 percent increase in health insurance costs.
Most of the mandates will be funded with state dollars, but the system is losing about $2.4 million in austerity reductions, money school systems earn based on the state's funding formula but have been withheld by state officials because of a budget shortfall.
During the past few years, Columbia County has lost about $13.5 million because of austerity reductions.
"If we had these austerity reductions back in this, we'd be right on the money," Bridges said.
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