If the upcoming school year were a baseball game, school officials have shown themselves increasingly adept at hitting curve balls and handling bloopers lobbed their way from Atlanta.
That's good - because it's likely that plenty more changeups are coming our way.
The state's struggling economic climate mostly is to blame, though there's little doubt that the wisdom of the less-well-conceived state tax cuts of recent vintage will get hashed out during the upcoming gubernatorial election.
Just this year, though, school systems have been forced to contend not just with across-the-board cuts to their budgets, but to uncertainty brought on by attempts at "voucher" programs and a tax assessment freeze.
The latter issue, while well-intended at a time when homeowners enthusiastically welcome any tax relief, is causing heartburn for county officials. That's because tax offices around the state are being forced to scramble to accommodate the changes in the law, and that could create a two-month delay in tax collections at a critical time of the budget year.
Columbia County schools, as a result, could be forced to draw deeply from its reserve fund and borrow money to be able to tide over its $15 million per month expenses.
And in the midst of fielding that issue, school officials are trying their best to snag the line-drive fired at them recently when Gov. Sonny Perdue announced not just across-the-board budget cuts for all schools, but additional cuts equal to furloughing teachers for three days.
Amazingly, parents and students largely have been insulated as the system has coped with other budget adjustments. And the biggest change they'll see from the response to these most recent cuts is largely an improvement.
Sure, the school system is eliminating the fall break. And yes, there will be a handful of families who have already made vacation plans for those days that can't easily be adjusted.
But school officials practically are bending over backward to work with those families, even to the point of creating wink-and-a-nod excused absences for those days. More importantly, though, is that the 11th-hour change in the school system calendar gives everyone an entire week off for Thanksgiving. That sounds like a pretty good deal.
It's even better when you consider that even though he had to revamp the calendar this late in the game, School Superintendent Charles Nagle still managed to put together a revised schedule that cost educators only two of the state-mandated furlough days, with the school system absorbing the $1.5 million cost for the third.
Fielding such unexpected budget challenges is bound to include an error every now and then. But thus far, Columbia County school officials seem to have been doing a good job of swinging at the pitches thrown their way - and even hitting a few of them out of the park.
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