DeKalb County School Board Approves Budget, Millage Rate

On Tuesday, the DeKalb County school board approved a $1.2 billion budget for the upcoming year.
On Tuesday, the DeKalb County school board approved a $1.2 billion budget for the upcoming year.
Credit Nick Nesmith / WABE

The DeKalb County school board approved a $1.2 billion budget Tuesday night. Just one out of seven board members voted against the proposal.

However, even though most members voted in favor of the budget, many weren’t happy with the numbers.

The district’s budget this year is almost $93 million more than it was last year. Some of the increase is due to staff raises and retirement costs. Other expenses, like building repairs and instructional programs, also climbed. The district will borrow from its reserves to meet costs.

Board members complained about the budgeting process. Officials publicly released a draft of the FY20 budget in May. In February, the district posted a budget survey on its website to solicit community input.

Joyce Morley, a board member representing District 7, said the board should’ve had more time to review the numbers.

“This budget process needs to start in October in all actuality,” she said. “There needs to be a predictability. There needs to be a sustainability, but there needs to be an understanding of how this process goes through.”

Marshall Orson, the board’s vice chair, echoed Morley’s concerns.

“We keep building budgets in the same way that we’ve been doing for 50 years and simply throwing money in one place or another based on the fact that we think we have available funds without questioning the underlying assumptions about how we run a school district,” Orson said.

Morley said the board should be more critical when reviewing funding requests.

“This budget today is a symptom of a larger problem,” she said. “Every month, we have approved everything that comes before this board, every program over the years.”

The budget includes the $3,000 raise for teachers Gov. Brian Kemp promised. However, funds from the state won’t cover all of it. DeKalb will spend about $6 million to make sure each teacher gets an increase.

The board also voted to keep the county’s millage rate the same in FY20, at 23.18 mills. Even though the rate won’t change, homeowners whose property values increase will see a tax hike.

At the public hearing Tuesday, Daniel Sobczak, a DeKalb teacher and resident, told the school board he doesn’t mind paying more in taxes.

“Let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools, even though I don’t personally have a kid in school: because I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people,” he said.

Other residents urged the board to lower the millage rate, saying they weren’t pleased with the overall quality of the schools.