News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Jan. 9, 2012
EVANS, Ga. -- It sounds like a broken record, but once again Columbia County is working to fill a hole in the budget. Only this year, the superintendent says, he's getting low on options and your child will pay the price.
"We're running out of hat tricks," said Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle.
Nagle is no magician, as much as he'd like to be.
"We've heard anything that there could be more cuts anywhere from 2 to 8 percent, which would be detrimental," Nagle explained.
In the last 10 years, Nagle says the state has cut more than $73 million from the county's budget.
"At some point our community, our state, has got to understand that if we keep cutting, it's going to impact the quality of education in the state of Georgia," he added.
This year he's anticipating at least a $10 million budget hole. He says their number one option is crowding more students in each classroom.
"It looks as though the only means of being able to accommodate this type of deficit would be to raise class sizes," Nagle said. "We could raise class sizes by three above the state average and save about 40 teachers."
This school year, the county decided against furloughing and opted not to buy new textbooks instead which saved $2.3 million.
"This year we're going to have to buy the textbooks and we're going to have to cut somewhere else to keep that balancing act going until the economy can turn around," Nagle said.
But the superintendent says his biggest worry is about a drastic increase in state health benefit plans coming next year.
"Our portion goes from about $1,900 for one person to about $5,000. It's going to be extremely difficult for us to meet the demands. We're going to have to really ... we're going to have to make some decisions," Nagle said.
The positions Nagle is worried most about with that state benefit increase are the non-certified positions like para-pros, school nutrition experts and bus drivers.
Nagle says a millage rate increase is not a priority and right now, they have no plans for a tax increase.
He says they'll just have to be creative other ways, meaning the juggling act continues. The state budget numbers are expect in April.