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Baker County School Board finally passes budget

NEWTON, Ga. -- After more than two months of trying to pass its Fiscal Year 2011 budget, the Baker County Board of Education was able to accomplish that pivotal task through a special-called Sunday evening meeting at the superintendent's office.

Board Chair Grace Miller, Carrie Hall, Bonnie Hudson and Janet Anderson voted in favor of the budget. Myrlene Sheffield abstained. Superintendent Tommy Rogers said he didn't know why Sheffield abstained. Rogers said about 10-15 teachers were present at the meeting.

Rogers said the board approved the third budget option that he presented at the Aug. 10 meeting. The $3,059,253 budget -- $1,022,817 less than last year's $4,082,070 budget -- has $43,690 in reserve and a 14.889 millage rate. Last year's millage rate was 12.88.

The next step for the Baker County School System would be advertising the new millage rate and its history. They will then have public hearings, which are likely to become heated with many residents in the small rural town frustrated about their taxes increasing. About 30 people each have attended the last two monthly board meetings at the high school's media center.

"These financial situations are like being in a bad spot because you'd like to be able to blame someone and you can't because it's just a bad economy," said Rogers, who's retiring after 23 years at the helm. "Just because you're not alone and it's happening all over the state, it doesn't make you feel any better. If we didn't have large cuts of students or large cuts from the state or loss of revenue of tax we wouldn't be in this situation. But, we had a perfect storm.

"We don't have a choice, but to make it work," he added. "It's just what we have to do. We've got to make it work this year."

The Baker County School System starts Sept. 1. It will house its entire enrollment at one school. After having 420 students enrolled last year, 326 students are currently enrolled for the 2010-11 school year, a school official recently reported. Rogers said due to the state relaxing class size limits, his biggest projected class size will have 34 students in a middle school grade.

Miller and Hall couldn't be reached for comment through a phone call left by The Herald Monday afternoon.