Columbia County schools face funding drop, will cut jobs

Though they will open a new school this year, Columbia County school officials intend to operate the system with less funding.

Due to state budget cuts, the school system will receive about $3.5 million less in operating capital next school year than the current year, Superintendent Charles Nagle told the school board today during a study session.

“We have been in a year unlike any other,” he said.

Mr. Nagle proposed an about $173 million budget for the upcoming school year, compared to an about $176.4 million budget this year.

Determined to balance the budget, Mr. Nagle said he and his staff started preparing it in October. Typically, work doesn’t start on a new budget until January, he said.

Officials cut more than 100 positions to save about $5.5 million in payroll expenditures.

“I’m not proud of the cuts we had to make ... but we had a tough year,” Mr. Nagle said.

Many of the cuts came through attrition, as a result of increasing class sizes and by eliminating some part-time employees.

“Every full-time employee contracted with the school system has received a contract (to come back),” Mr. Nagle told the board.

Also, the budget included $1.872 million in raises.

Still, the cuts may not be enough, Mr. Nagle warned.

Gov. Sonny Perdue should make a decision Friday whether or not he intends to include millions in federal stimulus funding as part of the state allotment for school systems, Mr. Nagle said. If he chooses to not use the stimulus funding, Mr. Nagle said more cuts may be required.

“It’s just difficult to present a budget without knowing what your revenue is going to be,” he said.

The school board will meet again May 12, to further discuss the budget.

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School positions cut

- 38 teachers

- 28 para-professionals

- 4 vocational education paraprofessionals

- 4 career specialists

- 8 middle school clerical aids

- 4 instructional technology specialists

- 4 technical supports specialists

- 8 middle school graduation coaches

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115,

or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

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