Property taxes will rise in Columbia County this year after initial approval of a 1-mill tax hike by the Board of Education.
On a 4-1 vote Tuesday, trustees agreed with a recommendation by School Superintendent Charles Nagle for a tax increase that amounts to roughly $40 per $100,000 in assessed property value. They also agreed to eliminate 20 custodial jobs.
“Even raising this budget by 1 mill is balancing this budget on just what we can get by with,” Nagle said during a budget hearing prior to the board session.
Years of state budget cuts, coupled with the county’s rising student population, had the school system facing an $11.5 million deficit when the budget process started, Nagle said. After taking nearly $7 million from the system’s reserve fund, school officials had to find an additional $4.6 million to balance the nearly $178 million budget.
About $600,000 in cuts will come from reducing the number of custodians by 20, to 140, for the system’s 32 schools, central office and other facilities. The tax hike is expected to generate $4 million to fill the remaining gap.
“Our people in our county are committed to having a good education and the best school system we can have,” said Board Chair Regina Buccafusco. “If they’re willing to spend extra money for channels on TV, I think they’re willing to spend the extra $50 or $200 or whatever ... on our school system.”
District 3 Board member Mike Sleeper was the lone vote against the tax hike. He said he would have preferred the system instead consider furloughing school employees for two days and “go from there.”
The board is expected to give final approval to the budget, including the tax hike, on June 11.