Larger class sizes with fewer teachers and aides will be the likely result of Columbia County school system efforts to fill a $10 million budget gap for next year.
At a school board budget study session Tuesday, Superintendent Charles Nagle spelled out options for meeting the anticipated shortfall.
“We’ve got a budget tight as a tick at $175 million” for 2012-13, Nagle said, noting that the amount represents per-pupil expenditures more than $1,100 below the state average.
“We’re getting the best bang for the buck, and we’re a high-achieving school system,” he added.
To make up for next year’s expected shortfall — the result of a combination of stagnant state funding and higher student enrollment — Nagle said savings from the current year will bridge up to $4 million of the gap, with $2 million more if the county’s tax digest grows by 3 percent as expected.
The system then could gain nearly $3 million by cutting as many as 21 teachers and 62 paraprofessionals, Nagle said. All of those positions would be eliminated through attrition.
The teaching positions would come from slight increases in class sizes throughout the system, allowing classes with up to three students more than the state recommended number. Paraprofessionals, who largely are funded locally rather than through the state, would be reduced to one for every three teachers in elementary schools, trimming the number from 195 in the system to 133.
Other possible options include employee furloughs for a savings of roughly $700,000 per day, cuts to school supplements and reductions in the numbers of other employees, including assistant principals, counselors and nurses.
“The money’s got to come from somewhere unless you raise taxes,” Nagle said.
Board members will get a formal proposal on the budget at their first meeting in February.