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DeKalb raising taxes, cutting school programs, staff

7:08 AM, Jun 22, 2012   |    comments
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Video: DeKalb County School Board Raises Taxes, Cuts Programs

  • DeKalb County School Board Member Paul Womack, June 21, 2012
  • DeKalb County School Board
    

DECATUR, Ga. -- Thursday night the DeKalb County School Board approved a $760 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year. 

The board was faced with a shortfall of $85 million. The following are a few examples of how the board decided to increase taxes, cut expenses and begin rebuilding the reserve fund, while balancing the budget: 

  • The board voted to increase the millage rate one mill, instead of the two mills proposed by the superintendent. This change will raise about $14.8 million for the schools, and cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $80 more a year in taxes.
  • The board voted to increase the furlough days that teachers and other employees will have to take. Employees will have six furlough days instead of the four they had in the 2011-2012 school year. The two additional furlough days will yield an additional $9 million for the schools during the 2012-2013 school year. 
  • The board agreed to increase class size, across the county, by two pupils per classroom; that will save about $14 million. 
  • Special education classes will also add two pupils to each classroom; that will save $10 million. 
  • Funding for the Fernbank Science Center was cut by 40 percent; the center will receive $1.9 million less than the $4.7 million it received this year.
  • And the county decided to cut 200 para-professional positions, as opposed to the 300 previously suggested. 
  • Another 300 positons will be eliminated from both the central office and at the school level. Some of those positions will include media specialists.

These, along with other changes, will result in a small reserve fund of just under $8.4 million.  The school system has no reserve fund, now.  The school system costs about $3 million, per day, to operate. 

No one wanted the tax hike or the cuts, and school board member Paul Womack warned of worse to come, as a result.

"We have got to get our spending under control," Womack said. "And if you don't do it now, you think this budget year has been painful, next year is going to be a disaster."

"I think it's going to negatively impact the morale" of teachers, said Nicole Duff, a teacher, parent and DeKalb resident. She said teachers and county residents like her will be facing increased furlough days, lower pay, and higher property taxes as a result of the board's vote.

"It's going to negatively continue to impact people moving into DeKalb," she said, "And it's going to impact the children, at the end of the day."

The vote was 5-to-4 for the cuts and the tax hike.

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