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Dekalb county community debates what it can afford

11:21 AM, Jun 18, 2012   |    comments
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- A wave of community support saved the Fernbank Science Center during round one of Dekalb County School District's budget cuts. But with news the district has to find another $12 million in savings, the beloved science center is back on the chopping block.

The school board will vote on Wednesday about what cuts to make. So students and parents hope a rally on Monday will sway their decision.

Supporters have already turned to online petitions, Facebook, Twitter and call campaigns to get the community involved. Now it wants to offer a visual show of support in front of the Fernbank  itself.

Leah Nugent planned to attend the rally Monday morning. She's taken classes at the science center during school hours as well as during after-school programs for the past four years and credits the center with fostering her love of nature.

"I'll walk around outside and I'll be like ooh, ooh that's like, that's actually a hawk and I know what kind of hawk it is," said Nugent, her face beaming. "That excitement that education can bring you, that's what Fernbank really does."

But with jobs cuts, furlough days, and increased class sizes already on the table, the superintendent has proposed cutting Fernbank's budget by nearly 70 percent to help deal with an $85 million budget gap.

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For some, their support of the center stops at the risk of raising the millage rate. A one mil increase would mean about $80 more a year on a $200,000 house. It's a tough sell in such a tough economy. But Nugent says the economy is the reason the science center should remain open. 

"We need smart innovative people who will be able to solve these problems, and one of the main areas that's growing is technology and science," Nugent said. "So if we don't have well taught science students, what are we supposed to do?"

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