In November, the DeKalb County School Board will ask voters to approve a five-year penny sales tax to pay for a $475 million list of schools building and operations projects. If it passes, Dunwoody’s up for a rebuilt elementary school.
“I see an urgent need for capacity to be built” in the Dunwoody area, said School Board member Nancy Jester at a May 6 school board meeting.
Elementary schools average 107 percent capacity in her super cluster one, she noted, and are slated to rise.
So Austin Elementary will go. A study commissioned by the DeKalb school board last year scored Austin at 32 out of 100 for facilities, technology and suitability — tied for the worst in the county. Austin may be rebuilt at the same place or sited nearby.
The county would replace a total seven schools.
“It’s ridiculous that in 2011, you have a school on a septic tank,” said Organization of DeKalb Educators President David Schutten, in support of rebuilds.
Austin is the biggest north DeKalb appropriation on the list for the proposed special local option sales tax. Most other schools in the area are up for regular capital improvements, such as heating and air-conditioning replacements or roofing. The money also would help repay the no-interest federal loan that is funding the Chamblee High School replacement.
Jester was the only board member who did not vote for the SPLOST list, saying she had not had enough time to assess the list of projects. The original list had been published two weeks previously, and the board made amendments in the meantime.
The new SPLOST would run from 2012 until 2017. According to DeKalb’s figures, it would raise $475 million for county schools. The tax would also apply in Decatur and the city of Atlanta in DeKalb, with those funds to be channeled to those schools.
However, SPLOST is competing against other proposed taxes for a piece of DeKalb resident’s dollars. DeKalb County is considering raising the property tax rate. In 2012, voters in the whole metro area will vote on a regional penny sales tax to fund transportation projects.
“Something’s got to give. It can’t all happen,” warned central DeKalb School Board member Don McChesney.
At the same meeting, the school board approved a draft plan to keep the county’s school millage the same: $22.98 dollars on every $1,000 of value on DeKalb residences. That figure is now up for public input; the board must adopt a millage by July.
At least two board members, including Jester, have declared they would not support a millage increase, while others want to consider it.
The millage would pay for a school budget that will total $1.234 billion for the year beginning in July. The board unanimously approved that budget.
The budget calls for furlough days — four for teachers, seven for year-round staff. An earlier draft would have ended teacher furloughs, but DeKalb County has revised downward estimates of its expected tax collections, so the board voted the more conservative version.
“I’m not fully satisfied with the budget we have, but it’s the best we can do,” board Vice Chair H. Paul Womack said.