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News Alert: DeKalb County School Board votes to raise property taxes
by Bobby Tedder
June 20, 2012 04:15 PM | 3193 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Southwest DeKalb senior Ellis Jones, 17, right, son of Barbara Douglas, of Decatur, holds up a sign with fellow classmates outside a meeting of the DeKalb County School Board recently, in which the budget deficit was discussed.
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Updated: June 21 7:30 p.m.:

The DeKalb County School Board voted 5-4 in favor of increasing property taxes by 1 mil. The meeting is still in progress. We will have an updated story as soon as all details are available.

*Updated June 20 at 4:43 p.m.*

The DeKalb County School District has delayed the June 20 budget vote and will reconvene June 21 at 6 p.m. The school system has delayed voting on a newer budget proposal because they are waiting to receive technical information from the state.

The DeKalb School District is facing a bigger deficit than previously thought. Officials say an adjustment stemming from the tax digest will result in several million dollars being added to the existing $73 million shortfall. “The economy is in a state of flux … right now, it just seems to be on a continuous downturn,” said Board chair Eugene Walker. “As a result, we’ve found ourselves in a hole that’s deeper than we thought.” Balancing the fiscal year 2013 budget now appears to have even more ominous implications for school personnel and students. The DeKalb School Board had been operating under the belief that it was facing a six percent drop in the value of taxable property — amounting to about $24 million in lost revenue. They were informed at Monday’s meeting by district Chief Financial Officer Michael Perrone that the county tax assessor is now projecting a nine percent drop, which roughly equates to a $12 million hole. That boosts the projected deficit next year to $85 million. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” Walker said. The revelation preempted what was supposed to be a final debate and vote on the budget, particularly the tax increase — one mill — passed during the preliminary phase. Those proceedings have been moved to June 20. The aforementioned $12 million deficit bump nearly wipes out the proposed tax increase. What course of action the board takes in order to come up with that sum is unclear at present. Possible remedies — decreasing the number of school days, downsizing teaching staff and cutbacks targeting support staff among them — have already been discussed. “People keep talking about cuts, but where can we cut with the least impact on teaching and learning?” Walker said. “There comes a time when your expenses exceed your income and you gotta get more money and you just can’t cut everything … and this is one of those times.” What is clear at present is that the board does not have much time to sort things out. The new fiscal year begins on July 1. Elsewhere, district officials recently announced the results of an audit and reorganization of its central office expected to save several million dollars. In all, 73 positions, including administrators, secretaries and other staff will be eliminated as part of the first overhaul of the central office in more than a decade. The move is projected to translate into savings totaling $5.1 million. Moreover, the school system’s new aligned salary structure will save more than $2 million during the next three years. The June 20 budget debate is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start time.

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