Rising fuel and food prices are affecting more than household finances. These increasing costs also will affect the 2008-09 Columbia County school system budget.
Superintendent Charles Nagle presented the preliminary budget, which showed an increase in costs for diesel fuel and school lunch, to the school board Tuesday at a study session.
Nagle said fuel costs for 2008-09 are projected at $1.2 million, which would be about the same amount that the system expects to spend on fuel this year. He said this figure would mark an increase of $350,000 over last year's fuel budget.
The overall transportation budget, which also is expected to increase by $1.2 million, is projected to jump from $6.6 million this year to $7.8 million next year.
Overall, Nagle said, the proposed budget is expected to have a shortfall of more than $1 million. He said he will recommend that the school system offset the deficit with its fund balance and reserves rather than with a millage increase.
Preliminary figures put expenditures for 2008-09 at $176 million, a $5.1 million increase over this year.
Overall revenues are projected at $175 million. Revenues generated locally are estimated at more than $68 million, based on a 6 percent increase in the county tax digest. State and federal revenues are projected at $106.8 million and $200,000, respectively.
Salaries and benefits, projected at 89.2 percent of the budget, would make up the largest share of expenditures. Fixed costs, including fuel, insurance, textbooks and utilities, would account for 4.6 percent of the budget. Discretionary spending for items such as software and instructional supplies would make up 6.2 percent of the budget.
The proposed budget is based on a student population of 22,577, an increase of 484.
Under the proposal, the price of school lunches also would rise. Elementary schools would see a 50 cent jump, and the cost of middle and high school lunches would increase by 25 cents. The proposed price increases would bring all school lunches to a cost of $2.25.
"If we were to do this and prices stabilized, then we shouldn't have to go up the next year or the next," Nagle said.
He attributed the need for the cost increase to rising food prices and a deficit in the school nutrition reserve funds. He said the nutrition program reserves are $300,000 to $400,000 lower than they should be.
Other budget highlights included a 2.5 percent salary increase for employees other than administrators; 30 additional teaching positions; six additional bus drivers; 14.5 additional support staff members for Stallings Island Middle School, which is opening in August; $400,000 in startup supplies for Stallings Island; and a $300,000 increase in utilities costs.
The next budget meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Board of Education central office, 4781 Hereford Farm Road, Evans.
The board hopes to give tentative approval to the budget June 10 and final approval June 24.
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