ZACHARY - The Zachary Community School Board approved a $45 million general fund budget Thursday that reflects the state freeze on aid to local school districts and increased retirement and other costs.

The budgeted expenses are about $600,000 more than in last school year’s budget, but the system’s staff found ways to avoid a possible $2.5 million deficit.

Based on revenue and expenditure projections, the board would have faced the deficit if nothing was done, Superintendent Warren Drake told the board at a budget meeting earlier this month.

Drake said the district’s challenge in the next year would be saving money while maintaining “our status as a model of excellence in every area.”

The district has been the state’s top-performing school district for six consecutive years.

The budget anticipates receiving $45.39 million in revenues and expenses of $44.9 million, for an operating surplus of $450,000. The leftover money, however, will be transferred to the school lunch fund budget to offset a deficit in that account.

The school district is entering the new fiscal year with a $21 million fund balance.

“This year’s budget has been a challenge,” board President Sharon Samuel said.

Other actions during the meeting involved:

LUNCH PRICES: The board accepted a recommendation to raise breakfast and lunch prices by 25 cents to offset food price increases. The increase will raise the price for breakfast to $1.25, elementary lunches to $1.75 and middle and high school lunches to $2 each, Child Nutrition Supervisor Helen Folks said.

CONSTRUCTION BIDS: Members agreed to ask for bids on July 28 for construction of a new school for first- and second-graders on the board’s property between Rollins Road and Rollins Place. The board set a construction budget of $18.6 million after receiving new cost estimates from architect Henry Carville.

The project includes a facility for physical education classes that could be cut from the contract after bids are taken.

The job calls for a construction time of 16 months and the successful bidder will have to meet a “very tight schedule,” Facilities Committee Chairman Scott Swilley said.

Funds for the new school were made available from a $40 million bond issue that voters approved last year.