Any more state budget cuts to education will directly affect Columbia County pupils' learning ability, schools Superintendent Charles Nagle told state lawmakers during a Tuesday forum.
The school system has lost more than $13.8 million in state funding since last school year, Nagle said.
Despite the lost funding, he said the school system has been able to maintain a high instruction level thanks to about $5.7 million in federal stimulus funds and position cuts.
However, additional cuts by the state might become more than the school system can handle.
"We've cut into our local funds as deep as we can cut into them without affecting instruction," Nagle said.
Though the lawmakers said they sympathize, they warned Nagle and the school board that more cuts likely are coming.
Already, Gov. Sonny Perdue has cut about $900 million from the budget.
Though education funding will be protected more so than anything else, said state Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, there is no guarantee that more cuts won't be necessary. "You've got to know that everything is on the table this year," he said.
School board Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco said she has heard rumors that Perdue might require educators to take another five furlough days next semester. The lawmakers said they haven't heard any such rumors and don't know if furloughs will be considered.
Perdue mandated that educators take three furlough days this semester to save money. Columbia County school officials only furloughed teachers for two days and cut the cost of the remaining furlough day from elsewhere in their budget.
In lieu of furloughs, Nagle suggested alternatives the legislators might consider, including freezing salary step increases, eliminating sales tax holidays and taxing Internet sales.
Temporarily halting raises is less a morale-bruiser than cutting teacher pay through furloughs, argued Nagle.
Legislators said nearly everything will be considered next year when discussing the budget.
Jackson and state Rep. Lee Anderson, R-Appling, suggested that Nagle travel to Atlanta to discuss these issues with other lawmakers.
The school board and the county legislative delegation hope to meet again during the session in Atlanta so school officials can give their feedback on pending legislation.
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