At its regularly scheduled meeting in June, the Columbia County Board of Education gave approval of the 2008-09 school system budget. As the success of our school system is due largely to the support of our parents and this community, I am grateful for the opportunity to share the highlights of this budget.
First, it is worthwhile to note that our general fund is comprised of approximately 62 percent of state funds, about $107 million of this year's budget, and our local tax digest, nearly 38 percent or about $68 million of the overall budget, and only $200,000 of federal funds. Clearly, without local support, we would not be able to provide our students the best education possible, exceeding state standards for instruction, technology, student transportation, facilities and other student needs.
Some highlights of this year's budget include $4.6 million for state-mandated salary increases and an increase of $650,000 to meet the demands of escalating fuel and utilities costs. These three items account for about 57 percent of the overall budget increase of approximately $9.3 million.
Likewise, this year's budget contains the addition of 35 new certified and 27 new auxiliary positions to help meet the growth and instructional needs of the system and the opening of the new Stallings Island Middle School. This increase includes 11 teachers hired for middle school early intervention and instructional extension programs that provide increased academic support for academic at-risk students.
Other additions include the purchase of Georgia Performance Standards-aligned mathematics textbooks for every ninth-grade student. Additionally, as a condition of our Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax, approximately $7 million will be expended to reduce old bond debt, to purchase new school buses and to maintain the system's commitment to a five-year replacement cycle for computers.
As we plan for the future and strive to meet and exceed the expectations of our community, state and nation, we make every effort to maximize our taxpayers' dollars and to provide the very best educational experience possible for our students.
Even with locally funded benefits such as a paraprofessional for every first- and second-grade classroom, technology support specialists in every school and an elementary assistant principal for our smaller schools, we continue to spend approximately $1,000 less per student than the state average.
To meet that average, our school system would have to spend approximately $22.5 million more from the local tax digest. However, it is evident through the successes of our students and their academic accomplishments that we continue to achieve high standards while being financially responsible.
With the support of parents, community leaders, and business partners, our hard work will continue to pay off! Should you have questions or comments related to the 2008-09 budget, or any other school system matter, please contact us at your convenience. We look forward to every opportunity to help our students excel.
Charles R. Nagle is superintendent of the Columbia County school system.
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