The Bryan County Board of Education approved a $55.4 million 2015 budget Thursday that adds new teachers and administrators to the growing system without raising the millage rate.
But the vote wasn’t unanimous, with BoE Chairman Eddie Warren and District 1 Representative Paine Bacon casting no votes during the board’s meeting at Carver Elementary. The budget passed 5-2.
"I’m not saying it’s a bad budget,’ Bacon told fellow board members. "It’s sound. There are just a couple of things in there I don’t agree with, some of the additions to central office staff and new salaries."
Bacon said he wanted board member to remember the county’s system has a reputation for excelling in the classroom despite spending less on students than other systems.
"We need to keep these things in mind," Bacon said. "People move to Bryan County not only for the good schools, but the low tax base. Our duty as board members is to the taxpayer as well as to the children we represent."
Warren also voiced concerns over the addition of more administrators and central office staff.
"Once you put positions like that in, you can’t take
them back out," he said. "One of the reasons we’ve been able to sustain without furlough days and shorter school years and the things everybody else is having to do is because we’ve managed money well. We haven’t had a fat central office like some other BoEs do, and we don’t need to get to that point."
Dr. Paul Brooksher, who had his contract extended at the end of Thursday’s meeting, said this is the fifth straight year the school system hasn’t raised taxes.
The budget includes 34 new teachers, a revised pay scale, a part-time social worker, a coordinator of technology infrastructure and support and a curriculum coordinator for grades kindergarten through fifth grade. The budget also adds additional curriculum, technology and Title I positions. Warren said he thought those could have been "phased in," adding he believes the system needs to put back more money for building facilities.
Brooksher said the budget includes more than $2 million to help pay for such projects.
"This is a financially sound budget that provides additional classroom teachers for our growing student population as well as providing much needed system level resources that will help support all of our teaching staff," Brooksher said. "With the implementation of the new curriculum and assessment standards along with the new evaluation system, these new positions will be a tremendous asset to our district in our commitment to achieve excellence and success at the classroom level."
Bryan County Schools Chief Financial Officer Melanie James did the number crunching for the BoE. She called the budget a team effort that involved input from all the system’s stakeholders and was fiscally accountabile to the community.