The Columbia County school board gave final approval Tuesday to a $178.8 million budget for next school year that will require a tax increase to fund.
School officials have said that a half-mill tax increase on county property owners helps overcome a $7.6 million revenue deficit and avoids employee furloughs.
The tax increase should generate about $1.9 million in new revenue for the school system. It would take three employee furlough days to save an equal amount, according to school system figures.
The system initially was about $16 million short to meet the budget demands because of cuts in state funding, but made up about half that deficit using building and stimulus funds held in reserve.
To make up the remainder of the deficit, officials intend to delay the purchase of textbooks, cut instructional spending allocated for each school, eliminate a $950,000 contingency fund for payroll previously in place and dip into the system's $26 million reserve.
Public hearings to increase the millage will be at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. July 12 and 8 a.m. July 19, when the board will vote on the tax increase. A half-mill rise will cost a resident with a $100,000 home $24 more each year in property taxes.
The Columbia County Commission might halve that tax burden, however. It is considering cutting the millage used to repay bond debt by a quarter-mill. It then might use excess money in the county's reserves to pay down bonds.