The Columbia County school board on Tuesday gave final approval to a nearly $169 million budget for next school year that calls for spending about $3 million more than what is expected in revenues.
The budget for next school year projects about $165.1 million in revenues and about $168.6 million in expenditures.
Superintendent Charles Nagle said officials will dip into their reserve fund, which will diminish the reserve to about $26 million. The board has approved pulling $1.5 million from the reserve to balance the current budget.
School officials said they had to draw from reserves to compensate for a $6 million loss in state funding.
School officials have eliminated 17 teaching positions, two counseling positions, cut middle school Spanish-language instruction, cut funding for instructional supplies by 10 percent and included five furlough days in next year's school calendar to offset the additional $3 million in lost funding.
Nagle said they cut as much as they could "without further jeopardizing classroom instruction."
Officials had considered cutting some middle school sports programs and eliminating nearly 70 paraprofessional teaching positions, but backed off for at least one more year. Money is included in the new budget to hire as many as 15 more paraprofessionals, but they will be expected to act as substitute teachers more often as the need arises.
The school system has lost about $21 million in state funding since 2007. During that period, the system's student population grew by more than 1,000.
Last year, the board eliminated about 100 teachers and paraprofessionals through attrition and class size increases.
The board also adopted a resolution increasing class sizes for the next school year.
Officials said they were reluctant to consent to class size increases but realize it might be preferable to add students to classrooms than to add teachers to a strained payroll.
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