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$800 million budget top topic at DeKalb school board meeting
by Christine Fonville
June 11, 2014 10:46 AM | 4708 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week during a public forum session, citizens addressed the DeKalb County School Board with a mixture of praise for Superintendent Michael Thurmond and the system for accomplishing many goals set last year and concerns about the proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year.

Representatives from Clifton Elementary presented Thurmond with posters made by students and staff thanking the board for reinstating a media specialist position at the school while Tasharah Wilson, principal of Cross Keys High presented a thank you card to the superintendent for helping to provide a new track for the facility.

“I must share how excited everyone is, including students and parents, for the updates and amenities that are being added to our schools,” she said.

The upgrades may come from the tentative $44 million budget increase for the 2014-15 school year.

Although many citizens expressed gratitude for changes throughout the county’s schools, others expressed concern over the new budget.

Kirk Lunde, a Tucker resident, suggested the large and detailed budget be discussed further before a final vote.

“It is the board’s job to discuss the budget at length and I expect the board to spend at least two hours talking about the budget,” he said.

“It is a big budget funded by our tax monies and if we could trust superintendents implicitly, we would not have the history we have in DeKalb. I agree that Superintendent Thurmond is doing a good job but that is not an excuse to give the board a blank check, so my expectation is for each member to question the budget and staff when they come in front of you.”

He pointed to the county exceeding the number of international teachers voted for earlier in the year.

“Teachers in the classroom are a good thing, but there needs to be oversight and that is your job as the board,” he said. “For an almost billion-dollar budget, more conversation is not very much to ask.”

Similarly, DeKalb resident Carolyn Brooks, a parent volunteer at Southwest DeKalb High, suggested a financial audit be done for the county to know where funds are being spent.

“If a high percentage of our seniors are not graduating and freshman students are not getting to the next level, I want to know how our tax dollars can be spent to improve these issues in the classroom,” she said.

After a three-hour long work session followed by the public input session and a business meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve 21 of 22 items on a consent agenda that ranged from future SPLOST projects to the budget for the 2014-15 school year, which is about $800 million for general operations, effective July 1.

One item, the approval of non-resident tuition, was removed from an otherwise approved agenda.

The board’s first public millage rate hearing will be at 6 p.m. June 25 with a SPLOST oversight committee meeting occurring at 6 p.m. June 26.

A second public millage rate hearing, work session, community input session, third millage rate hearing, and business meeting will run from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 7.

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