Originally created 05/25/05

OK'd budget to come up short



Columbia County school officials approved an unbalanced budget Tuesday night that might put the system about $2.7 million in the hole.

The 2005-06 general fund budget tentatively approved by Columbia County school board members in a meeting Tuesday suggests the system will receive about $132 million in revenues.

However, the expected expenditures are nearly $135 million, according to figures provided by the school system.

Superintendent Tommy Price said there was no way around the deficit.

"It's never good, but nonetheless, unavoidable," he said.

The system might receive an additional $1 million in revenue through an increase in the Columbia County property tax digest and midterm adjustments, which is additional state funding based on increases in student enrollment at the middle of the school year, not accounted for in the budget, Mr. Price said.

"We don't want to present you with an overly optimistic picture," he said.

Were it not for a $4.2 million austerity reduction imposed by the state Legislature, the school system would be operating with surplus funds, Mr. Price told board members.

Austerity reductions are a portion of state funds withheld from each school system because of budget concerns.

The 2005-06 budget is about $4 million more than last year's and accounts for an increase in teacher pay, faculty hires, equipment purchases for the new River Ridge Elementary School, textbooks and school maintenance.

The budget also includes increased local supplements for teacher salaries to better compete with other systems for good educators, Mr. Price said.

"We feel good about the general fund," Mr. Price said. "I couldn't come to you with a more frugal budget."

Funds to pay for any budget deficits will come from the system's $26 million reserve.

"I think it's a good solid budget," said Regina Buccafusco, the chairwoman of the school board.

"Hopefully, the revenues will be higher than anticipated," she said.

Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

Columbia County School Budget

Revenue summary for proposed 2005-06 Columbia County school board budget

Local Sources: $48,225,000

State Sources: $82,935,766

Federal Sources: $440,000

Total: $131,600,766

Some items the budget will fund:

- 42 new teaching positions

- 18 new paraprofessional positions

- seven new bus assistants

- three new public safety officers

- 14 new laptops per high school

- Support staff and equipment for new River Ridge Elementary School

- New textbook inventory software

- $70,000 for tennis court renovations

- $250,000 for floor tile replacement

- Local teaching supplement increase of $500 to base for new teachers

- An increase for substitute teacher pay rates

Source: Columbia County Board of Education