The DeKalb County school board approved a tentative $1.2 billion budget for the upcoming school year Monday night. But for a while, it seemed like the vote wouldn’t happen.
Board vice chair Marshall Orson, filling in for absent board chair Michael Erwin, attempted a vote a few times. Initially, no other members would make a motion to vote. That’s unusual. It caused some concern for Chief Financial Officer Michael Bell. He urged the board to act.
“As you know, we’ve got to be ready and open and do business on July 1,” Bell said. “To load a budget of this size, that’s why we schedule a final vote no later than, say, the 25th of June, because there’s a great deal of work that needs to take place and get your intentions loaded … into two computer systems.”
The budget includes a $3,000 raise for teachers promised by Gov. Brian Kemp. To make sure every teacher receives that amount, the district will have to chip in more than $6 million. That’s because the state only funds raises for teachers included in its funding formula. DeKalb funds some certified teachers locally, without help from the state.
“We support all of those certified personnel,” Orson said. “So, we’re paying them. So, there are more recipients of the $3,000 who work for our system than who are allocated [by the state].”
The issue seemed to cause some confusion and led to a lot of discussion. Would the state pay for retirement costs? What about health care?
“Not 100%,” Bell said. “Maybe some part of it, but not 100%. That’s traditionally the way the state has done these things. They’ll say, ‘We want you to do this and this is how much we say it’s going to cost,’ but they generally don’t cover 100% of the … benefits.”
Finally, the board voted on the tentative plan and approved it 4-1.
A final budget vote is scheduled for June 25. That same day, the board will also hold a final hearing on the millage rate, which is expected to stay the same at 23.18 mills.