The Aiken County Board of Education is inviting county residents to comment on the 2014-15 budget at a special meeting today at 6 p.m.

The meeting will be at the School District office, 1000 Brookhaven Drive. A tentative budget was approved last month, and the Board will vote on the final budget on Tuesday, June 24.

“I think the tentative budget is about 99 percent of what the final one will look like,” said Levi Green, the Board vice chairman. “I don’t see a lot of changes. There won’t be a tax hike this year.”

That shows the Board and District administrators have done a good job of managing funds over the year, even in tough times, said trustee Keith Liner.

“We’ve added some programs, like the ninth-grade academy and two new teachers for East Aiken School of the Arts,” he said.

The District plans to allocate about $169 million for its general operations, and $17.6 million for new construction and school maintenance. With the help of some carry-over funds and the chance to move around some other expenditures, the Board members have allocated funds to meet some of their high priority item needs.

“I like some of the key points,” said Green. “Our classified employees will get a (step) increase, which they haven’t had for a number of years.”

That pay increase is based on another year of work experience for nonteaching personnel.

The Board also agreed to add two new teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages, also known as ESOL. The District has about 1,500 ESOL students.

Aiken High School is the latest school to get a freshman academy program – intended to provide a transition process for students coming from middle schools. That initiative is helping more students move from ninth to 10th grade, Dr. Tim Yarborough, the district’s high school academic officer, said at a recent Board meeting.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.