School board OKs budget

$178.8 million spending plan would require 0.5-mill property tax hike to fund

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.

CRCT Retakes


Also at the Columbia County school board meeting, officials said they recorded 256 passing grades from a May retest of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

Though the figure represents 49 fewer passing grades than in 2010, there also were 71 fewer tests administered this year.

In Richmond County, which also released retake results Tuesday, there were 786 passing grades from summer CRCT retakes. That represents 29 fewer passing grades than in 2010, but there were 304 fewer tests administered this year.

The CRCT is a benchmark exam used as a factor to determine schools' "adequate yearly progress" as set by the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Pupils in third, fifth and eighth grades must pass reading to move on to the next grade. Fifth- and eighth-graders also must pass math.

The exam initially was administered in April, but state law allows pupils who fail on the first try to retake the test following additional instruction.


Columbia County retake results 2010-2011
Richmond County retake results 2009-2011


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