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.