With very little discussion and surprising speed, Richmond County school trustees gave tentative approval Wednesday to the proposed $176.4 million budget for fiscal year 1999.
The budget, which does not include a millage increase, will be up for final approval at the next regular board meeting, 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 16.
Only one budget item was changed from its original amount -- the travel allotment for board members. The board voted 5-4 to reduce the amount from $2,700 to $1,700 per board member.
"It seems like everywhere in the budget everyone's giving up something, except board members. ... I don't believe any of us have spent $2,700 each traveling this year," said Trustee Ken Echols, who presented the motion to reduce the travel budget.
Trustee Y.N. Myers, who voted against the motion, moved that the balance of the money be made available for travel if needed, because some trustees' expenses might exceed others'. The motion passed without dissent.
Mr. Echols also requested a study of how much it would cost the school system to extend the contracts for 11 of the 34 public safety officers. Currently, 11 officers are on 11-month contracts instead of 12-month.
Superintendent Charles Larke said he would provide those figures, adding that the board would have the opportunity to add items to the budget if the tax digest is higher than anticipated.
After approving each section of the budget individually, trustees voted 5-4 in favor of approving the document as a whole.
Mr. Echols, Jeff Annis, Barbara Padgett and Mary Oglesby voted against approving the entire budget.
"Never vote on something that thick," Mr. Annis said, referring to the four-inch binder containing the budget.
"This is not the final (budget), and there are some things that I'd like to see changed. But we'll just wait and see," Mrs. Padgett said. "I was real happy to see that the travel was reduced for board members -- we should do our part too."
Mrs. Oglesby also said she would like to see some changes in the budget before final approval, but declined to give specifics.