Columbia County trustees vote to raise taxes

County faces $7.6 million budget shortfall

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The Columbia County Board of Education voted Tuesday to raise taxes to help make up a $7.6 million budget deficit without employee furloughs.

The school board voted 4-1, with trustee Mike Sleeper objecting, to approve a $178.8 million budget for next school year that includes a half-mill increase on property taxes.

Sleeper favored a combination of tax increase and furloughs.

"I find it difficult to go to our community to shoulder this" when many of them also have suffered salary cuts or layoffs, he said.

A half-mill increase represents about $24 more on the tax bill of a $100,000 home. It will generate about $1.9 million in new revenue.

Employees would have had to be furloughed about three days to equal that amount, according to school system figures.

The board also voted to delay the purchase of textbooks for at least a year, to cut from the schools' instructional spending, eliminate a $950,000 payroll contingency fund used in case growth necessitates hiring more teachers, and dip into the school system's $26 million reserve fund.

School officials' fiscal maneuvering also assumes the system will get at least $1 million at the midyear adjustment, when school systems can get more funding based on student population growth.

Tuesday's vote was just the first on the budget. The board is set to formally adopt it when it meets June 14, and it likely will set the new millage July 19.

Public hearings on the tax increase will be held at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. July 12 and 8 a.m. July 19.

In other action

- The school board adopted a new calendar for pre-kindergarten courses. Sept. 6 was set as the start date for pre-k, which was shortened to 160 days. All other grades will start classes Aug. 8.

- Officials released the results of the Georgia High School Graduation and Writing Tests. A higher percentage of Columbia County students passed every section of the GHSGT this year compared with last year, except in math. The 2011 scores showed that 95 percent met standards in language arts, 1 percent more than in 2010; 95 percent in math, 1 percent less than last year; 90 percent in social studies, 2 percent more; 97 percent in science, 1 percent more; and 98 percent in writing, 3 percent more.

- The board purchased 15 acres on Gibbs Road for $600,000. The land will become the site of a new Evans Elementary School. The project is part of the $118 million 1-percent sales tax package voters approved in 2010. Nagle said he hopes to open the new school by August 2012.

- Assistant Superintendent Jeff Carney resigned Tuesday to become the next superintendent for the Lincoln County school system. He will replace retiring Superintendent Randall Edmunds. Carney has been with the Columbia County school system for 22 years. Before his promotion to the central office last year, he was the principal of Lakeside High School.

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wildman
988
Points
wildman 05/25/11 - 04:16 am
0
0
Time to replace these clowns.

Time to replace these clowns. Who do they think they are?

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 05/25/11 - 04:22 am
0
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I'll pay $5/month more into

I'll pay $5/month more into my escrow account to avoid furloughing our public school teachers.

Brad Owens
4119
Points
Brad Owens 05/25/11 - 04:38 am
0
0
And THAT is why Columbia

And THAT is why Columbia County has grown by 20% in the past ten years and RC has remained the same.

The priorities are clear, education is the key to the whole thing isn't it?

At least they get what they pay for,

Brad

Riverman1
79841
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Riverman1 05/25/11 - 05:25 am
0
0
The results of the BOE

The results of the BOE meeting were predictable. I said days ago that the textbook purchase would be delayed and there would be no furloughs. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who knew. Taxes went up and the disturbing thing is that the textbooks still have to be purchased. Taxes will go up again.

Those who were giving lip service to educators also being furloughed knew it wasn't going to happen. All they wanted to do was defer attention from the fact administrators are over paid and receiving the supplement which should be only for teachers.

The housing market is going bust again and bank foreclosures are rising. The availability of tax revenue is going to be a mega problem before it's over. However, keep in mind, it is the families that make a school system great. School systems that spend less money invariably have the best results. That's been shown time and time again. The students will be okay.

Riverman1
79841
Points
Riverman1 05/25/11 - 05:58 am
0
0
Mike Sleeper voted the right

Mike Sleeper voted the right way, but don't give him too much credit. Sleeper, Ron Cross' son-in-law, is ambitious and Cross is aging. Sleeper is also in trouble politically. As I said earlier, I knew how the board vote would go along with everyone on the BOE and some in the media who were acting like they didn't know.

The BOE usually displays a united front after deciding matters before the vote. Sleeper wanted to stand out while not affecting the outcome. Matter of fact, the others voting for the tax increase made it better for him.

Sleeper has been damaged by the association with Scott Dean. Sleeper is Dean's buddy. After the first Dean textgate incident Sleeper made sure BOE member phone records could never be divulged. Dean had gotten considerable campaign contributions for his Commission seat election and had channeled thousands of dollars to Sleeper. BOE elections don't require lots of campaign funds.

Keep in mind, Dean, even before having to pay lawyers to represent him in his upcoming criminal trial, was not a wealthy person although he had spent lots adopting the girls. While awaiting trial he runs an apartment building in Athens.

The Sleeper-Dean link is odd and in the public's mind now. Sleeper had to do something.

Brad Owens
4119
Points
Brad Owens 05/25/11 - 06:17 am
0
0
RM1, So you are saying the

RM1,

So you are saying the Mike Sleeper is in trouble because Dean had some family secrets that no one knew about before the election? Come on man, Mike is a good guy, to try to paint him with that Dean stuff is a stretch.

Unless you can prove that Mike knew about all of Dean's personal problems before he supported him, how can you taint Mike with that?

Seems to me that Mike did the right thing here in some folks eyes, but you are just reaching pretty far to try to say Mike is in political trouble because of Dean's private scandals.

Brad

Riverman1
79841
Points
Riverman1 05/25/11 - 06:37 am
0
0
Brad, I am specifically

Brad, I am specifically saying Dean gave thousands to Sleeper's campaign. I'm saying Sleeper did introduce the measure to keep BOE cell phone records private after the first Dean textgate episode. As you know, Sleeper was also Dean's campaign manager.

You said, "Unless you can prove that Mike knew about all of Dean's personal problems..."

Although I wouldn't politely describe Dean's arrest as personal problems, I don't know where your idea I'm accusing Sleeper of knowing what Dean was up to came from. I never said or implied any such thing.

Brad Owens
4119
Points
Brad Owens 05/25/11 - 07:39 am
0
0
triple post

triple post

Riverman1
79841
Points
Riverman1 05/25/11 - 07:15 am
0
0
Brad, are you having computer

Brad, are you having computer problems or posting your same comment again for effect? If you are posting again for effect, let me clarify.

What becomes confusing with the Dean-Sleeper connection as with the entire Dean situation is there are two different matters. Sleeper and Dean were good buddies. Everyone knows that and it's proved by poor Scott Dean giving thousands to Sleeper's BOE campaign for goodness sakes. If Sleeper says he didn't know about Dean's textgate affair with the county employee, solider's wife that went on for a long time, there's not much anyone can do to prove otherwise.

We do know Sleeper introduced the measure to keep BOE phone records private after Scott Hudson broke the Dean story on WGAC.

As far as Sleeper knowing about Dean's family situation, I would certainly hope he didn't. There's no reason to believe he did. I'm sure Ashley Wright would have brought charges if information surfaced that anyone knew of such a situation. Keep in mind, the county has looked hard at the Dean case and recently removed the girls from the care of Dean's wife.

DawgnSC69
240
Points
DawgnSC69 05/25/11 - 07:41 am
0
0
Raising taxes was the right

Raising taxes was the right thing to do in this situation. Their priorities are in the right place. That's why everyone wants their kids in the Col. Co. School Sys. The only thing I would add is that there should be no additional spending and once the economy improves and the budget returns to the green, reduce the taxes back to where they were. But I wont hold my breath on that.

Imagine the crying and complaining that would go on in Richmond Co. by the one's who hardly pay any taxes at all if taxes were raised there.

bojangles
0
Points
bojangles 05/25/11 - 07:44 am
0
0
I support our teachers. This

I support our teachers. This was the right decision.

Brad Owens
4119
Points
Brad Owens 05/25/11 - 07:44 am
0
0
Computer problems. RM1, That

Computer problems.

RM1,

That is nothing new. Politicians help each other out a lot. Again, if Dean had an affair going on that was personal.

I have known Mike Sleeper for many years (16 I think) and he has never been anything but a good leader (what can you expect from a U.S. Army Ranger?).

Senator Walker, Rep Robin Williams, and Linda Schrenko gave thousands to folks and that is not a show stopper for say, Ben Harbin or Gov Deal.

Connect the dots, but be sure they are on the same page and part of the same puzzle please.

Brad

woodymeister
216
Points
woodymeister 05/25/11 - 08:01 am
0
0
Sleeper wants to raise taxes

Sleeper wants to raise taxes and furlough- how did he vote the right way? 4 voted to raise taxes half a mill and no furlough. My support goes to the 4 who ONLY raised taxes with no furloughs. Are the residents of Columbia County really whinning over 25 -50 dollars a year. Teachers have given up money for 2 years- " you get what you pay for"

Riverman1
79841
Points
Riverman1 05/25/11 - 08:02 am
0
0
Brad, what do you mean by "if

Brad, what do you mean by "if Dean had an affair going on that was personal"?

I say if he had an affair going on with a solider's wife/county employee, it certainly wasn't a personal matter if others knew.

Let me once again clarify. As you may know, I too, was in the Army. I have always felt a comradship with Sleeper because of that. I have found him to be very responsive to my requests for information about the mechanism of the school system. I could email him expecting to possibly get an answer in a week or two and he would answer back in about 10 minutes from his Blackberry. I have taken up for him in the past. He has generally been a good BOE member.

Still there are real questions about his relationship with Dean. Did he know about Dean and the county employee? You be your own judge. Did he have reason to move to make BOE phone records private after the Dean episode surfaced? You be the judge.

While you are at it think about the "campaign contribution" from Dean to Sleeper. Dean did draw some campaign contributions and this moved a couple of thousand to his friend. If you think it was intended for Sleeper to make commercials for TV or something, that's up to you.

So back to my original point. Sleeper knew what the proposal would be and the likely vote before the meeting, exactly as I and others knew. If you doubt I knew, read my comments on the CCNT days ago specifically saying what would transpire. His vote going against the others was nothing more than a political move.

Of course you can simply look at it as you do. "That is nothing new. Politicians help each other out a lot." And leave it at that or you can look deeper at political motives.

Riverman1
79841
Points
Riverman1 05/25/11 - 08:08 am
0
0
Know what, I give up. I have

Know what, I give up. I have no confidence in the Columbia County electorate any more. (At least one district) They voted Dean back in after the first incident and would have voted him in again if he hadn't been arrested. The power structure is deep and connected across all the critical aspects of the county. Good luck.

woodymeister
216
Points
woodymeister 05/25/11 - 08:11 am
0
0
I am disappointed with

I am disappointed with Fetter- Wouldn't it be nice if the headlines read "NO Furlough Days for Columbia County Teachers" Columbia County School Board continues to support those educating our children.

bclicious
624
Points
bclicious 05/25/11 - 08:15 am
0
0
That's good, but how does the

That's good, but how does the Majority of the public feel? I think this issue is too important for the commissioners to vote on. This issue should have gone directly before the Taxpayers.

Personally, I would have voted "yes" to increase taxes, but I am only 1 person. I also believe that we should consider going to a 4 day school week for the upcoming school year.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 05/25/11 - 08:53 am
0
0
Absolute losers. Who raises

Absolute losers. Who raises taxes in a depression?! Seriously. This is just theft. They think they deserve our money more than we do.

I love the $100,000 home example. How many homes in Columbia County are worth that? About 20? Most are $300+. Which means you'll pay $75 or more each year for a government entity who will not live within their means.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 05/25/11 - 08:53 am
0
0
In the meantime, Lakeside

In the meantime, Lakeside gets a new stadium, new track, new buildings, etc. etc. etc. Yes yes all you nitpicky folks who work at the Chronicle (you KNOW who you are), it's a different budget, blah blah blah. Newsflash. It's ALL still MY money!

The way I see this, 4 board members need to lose their jobs in the next election cycle.

WoodyKaminer
2
Points
WoodyKaminer 05/25/11 - 09:01 am
0
0
If things HAVE to be paid

If things HAVE to be paid for, the money MUST come from somewhere folks! Its actually quite simple. If you dont wanna pay higher school taxes, feel free to home school your kids. That way there will be less kids in class, fewer teachers would be needed, and no need to raise taxes to cover the shortage, because there wouldnt be one.
There are always options...

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 05/25/11 - 09:02 am
0
0
Riverman is right about

Riverman is right about Sleeper. He is in danger of not being re-elected because he is in a FISCAL conservative district and because of his association with crooked Ron Cross.

I can see the behind closed door meeting now between the 5 board members. "Mike, the 4 of us are OK politically but you might be in trouble. You vote this down because it will pass without you anyway."

soso12
0
Points
soso12 05/25/11 - 09:40 am
0
0
It is my opinion there could

It is my opinion there could be a reduction in the number of folks who sit in the glass tower of our school board offices. Their salaries alone would make up for the current short fall. So many bosses with outragious salaries and too little money for the children.
Leave my taxes be!!!

Donnie Fetter
3
Points
Donnie Fetter 05/25/11 - 09:51 am
0
0
@Woodymeister: Reporters

@Woodymeister: Reporters don't write headlines. That task is performed by copy editors.

scoobynews
3771
Points
scoobynews 05/25/11 - 10:39 am
0
0
Gee Chillen! I don't know too

Gee Chillen! I don't know too many teachers that own a $300K plus house. Must be nice.

I also can't understand why there is such much hoopla over $24 extra per $100,000 a year! That's like not going to the movies ONE night or out to eat for ONE night. So what I am getting here is you can't give up a small amount of "fun" for one day so that teachers in CC don't have to give up 3 or 5 days of PAY for their families? As stated at the board meeting the other night, most of CC's teachers live in CC so doesn't that make them tax payers just like you. So if your mil rate goes up so does theirs and then you want them to LOSE 3 days of pay on top of paying extra. The fact is nothing in life is FREE just as public education is not free. It has to be paid for. These fine new schools your kids sit in everyday compared to the old and crumbling schools most kids in other counties have to go to COST money! Your child getting that top notch education COST money. Those of you living in your fine $300K houses also don't give a darn about the OTHER furloughed workers in the school system - secretaries, media assistants, custodians, and bus drivers. These poor folks don't make much as it is and you want to whine because you make a 6 figure salary and you can't come off of $75 dollars. GIVE ME A BREAK!

As for Sleeper, I have no respect for a man that would work on a school board that prefers furloughing teachers and limiting the number of instructional days children in this county have. Any more board members like him and the kids wouldn't go to school at all.

dougk
3
Points
dougk 05/25/11 - 10:23 am
0
0
I think you summed it up
Unpublished

I think you summed it up well, Scooby....

bclicious
624
Points
bclicious 05/25/11 - 10:27 am
0
0
Although this year's budget

Although this year's budget may have been resolved with this Tax increase, I think that the situation with our nation's economy is not going to improve anytime soon. With that in mind, don't expect to see those federal education dollars return anytime in the coming years.

I think that the only thing that this tax increase did was to put off the looming storm for 1 more school season. The Columbia County Education System is not recession proof, and 1 of 2 things must eventually compromise. Either the quality of education in Columbia must give, or the people of Columbia must continue to shell out tax increase after tax increase.

Let's just see how much money we have!

justthefacts
20510
Points
justthefacts 05/25/11 - 10:34 am
0
0
bclicious, Bingo. A tax

bclicious, Bingo. A tax increase, probably necessary, is a short term solution to a long term problem. We see the same situation on a national level. At some point you have to treat the symptom.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 05/25/11 - 10:48 am
0
0
Let me guess.......Scoobynews

Let me guess.......Scoobynews is a teacher or former teacher. No brainer right there.

There were plenty of areas to cut - other than furloughing teachers. They just wanted more money out of us. Greed & Power is 100% of what drove this decision.

Here's the real deal folks.

1. Our economy is in a total shambles
2. Our property values are dropping like a rock
3. Our incomes are down - in some cases, way down or non-existent
4. Food prices are WAY up
5. Gas prices are WAY up
6. Gas taxes just went up by 3 cents per gallon
7. Georgia Power just increased our rates and it will cost us hundreds more each year
8. Insurance and medical costs are up
9. Unemployment is "officially" at 9% but experts say it's well over 15%
10. 85% of the 2011 college grads have not found a job in their field yet - most are working as waiters/waitresses or part time some where and living at home to make ends meet as their college loans come due.

A little here, a little there. It all add up folks. This year it will cost you THOUSANDS more just to live exactly like you did last year. This is so important I'll say it again. THIS YEAR IT WILL COST YOU THOUSANDS MORE TO LIVE EXACTLY LIKE YOU DID LAST YEAR. The school board is responsible for a hundred or more of it.

Now, after examining those facts. Do we really need tax increases?! Seriously?! No is the answer folks.

Oh, "but it's for the chilllldrennnnnn". Who will be deaf, dumb and blind if we don't make you folks pay more. Yea right.

How about the 70+ crowd paying school taxes again? They used the schools, their grandkids use the schools. Why do they get a break? Their grandparents didn't. Why don't they have a responsiblity to society to contribute to our youth?

I plan on attending one of the public hearings.

colcores
22
Points
colcores 05/25/11 - 10:46 am
0
0
Scooby you must have

Scooby you must have forgotten about all those who live in CC that are on a fixed income that don't get to go to the movies or go out to eat just so they can continue to have enough money for the necessities. With the costs of everything going up, watch the foreclosure rates in CC go up and more crime will begin to move in.

scoobynews
3771
Points
scoobynews 05/25/11 - 10:50 am
0
0
Well Chillen you have said in

Well Chillen you have said in several post that you own your own business so what exactly is YOUR salary? Do you not live in a house that is $300K or more? Do you think that teachers and other "public servants" (as you like to call them) don't buy food, pay electric bills, taxes, gas up their tanks, and so much more just like YOU do? I don't make a 6 figure salary but I bet money you do. Maybe your living a little out of your own means stretched to the limit with your $300K house, recreational toys, filling up your gas hog SUV or truck, country club dues, family vacations, and who knows what else? See I can assume just like you do. But I sure bet that most of what I just said was right on the money!

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