Good news came in the form of millions of unexpected dollars for the Columbia County school board at a Tuesday meeting.
Superintendent Tommy Price told the board the system received higher than expected gains from 1-cent sales tax dollars from April and a bigger than predicted boost in the county's tax digest.
The sales tax revenues totaled more than $1.4 million, which is an "all-time high," Price said.
"We were projecting $1.4 million a little further out in the future, but we're already there," he said.
The boost in sales tax revenues, which are used for capital improvements, couldn't have come at a better time, Price said.
Work is nearly complete on a new Evans Middle School, and site work is under way for a new middle school on Blackstone Camp Road and a new elementary school in Grovetown.
Also, school officials hope to begin construction on a new high school by 2009.
"I try to keep the board conscious of our building projects all the time, so we can start putting money away for those projects," Price said. "It's going to be much-needed when the time comes that we build a new high school."
The school system received another windfall from a higher than expected tax digest.
Price told board members Tuesday that the tax digest actually grew by 14.26 percent, which means about $2 million in additional revenue.
Initially, school officials expected only about a 10 percent growth in the tax digest, which would have left the system short $1.8 million for the $151 million budget the board approved Tuesday.
"The good news is you have a balanced budget," Price said.
Instead of nearly $2 million behind, the board will be operating with about a $250,000 surplus, Price said.
"The growth of this county has been tremendous, and it couldn't have come at a better time," he said. "Local systems are having to pay more and more of the share for education, and the state is not keeping pace."
Price was referring to figures he revealed to the board earlier this year showing that Georgia school systems, added together, increased spending by more than $850 million from 2002 to 2005. During those same years, the state Legislature increased education spending by $86 million.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Harlem High School counselor Donna Williams was promoted to assistant principal at Brookwood Elementary School. She will replace the retiring Barbara Gleitsmann.
The board also officially renewed Price's contract for the upcoming school year. Price announced his retirement earlier this month. He plans to remain superintendent through the 2006-07 school year and then serve in an advisory role the following school year.
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