Major cuts, tax hike in new DeKalb school budget

6:40 AM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
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STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- While many Georgia school systems are struggling with budget deficits, DeKalb County's is worse off than most.

That's because they have no rainy day fund.

Their reserves are empty.

While they still have two weeks before the vote, the school board has come up with a potential compromise budget that will be painful for just about everyone.

In order to fill a $73 million hole, they're thinking about the following cuts:

*Two more teacher furlough days

*One more student per classroom

*Two fewer school days

*200 fewer teacher aides

*Less for employee health and dental subsidies

*Less for pre-kindergarten.

But all of those cuts still won't be enough.

They'll only cover just over half of the deficit.

The board is also considering making up the remaining $30 million with a tax hike.

The 1 mil increase would mean about $80 more per year on a $200,000 home.

Supporters say they have no choice.

"I think people would be willing to pay their fair share in that," board member Donna Edler told 11Alive News on Wednesday.

"I've gotten a lot of support for that in that the community is willing to support education," she added.

But opponents fear a tax hike would be like milking a cow that's already anemic.

"There're a lot of people that are right on the verge of default," said board member Donald McChesney.

"If we raise the millage rate, we push them over the edge, which actually has the impact of lowering your tax receipts," he added.

Wednesday night, parents and community members gave the school board an earful, with some saying they oppose a tax increase because they have lost faith in the board.

Parents were also split on what should happen to the Fernbank Science Center. The hands-on children's museum is funded by the district and was on the chopping block until Tuesday. While some parents wore "Save Fernbank" buttons to Wednesday's meeting, others said it was necessary to cut the center's funding if it would mean less cuts in other areas.

The board is expected to vote on next year's budget on June 11. There will be two more chances for public comment on June 4 and June 11.

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