Taxes will go up for DeKalb County residents this year after the school board voted for a millage increase to help close an $85 million deficit.
At the DeKalb County Board of Education’s June 21 meeting, the board voted 5-4 to approve a 1-mill increase, which will provide DeKalb County schools with an additional $14.8 million. A 1-mill increase means taxes will go up about $80 on a house appraised at $200,000.
The nine-member board also split when it approved the budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1.
This year, the system spent through its reserves, leaving nothing for emergencies. So the $760 million budget includes cuts that will reduce the system’s operating costs and provide roughly $8 million in reserves.
“This budget allows us to rebuild our reserve and get back our financial footing,” said Walter Woods, spokesman for DeKalb schools.
The budget cuts $1.9 million in funding for the Fernbank Science Center and increases all class sizes, including special education, by two students. It also eliminates funding for 200 paraprofessionals.
“We are trying to keep our cuts from directly impacting the classroom as much as we can,” Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said.
The board also approved two additional furlough days for teachers, for a total of six next year.
“These will not be instructional days. They will be teacher work days and things like that,” Woods said.
Because of the increased class sizes, Woods said DeKalb will hire fewer teachers this year. No teachers will be laid off, but about 200 positions have been eliminated from the central office, he said.
Nancy Jester, who represents north DeKalb on the Board of Education, voted against the budget and the millage increase.
Jester said she believes the county could have done more to control spending before asking taxpayers for more money.
She voted against the budget, she said, because she would have rather seen different cuts.
“I stand for always putting the teacher and classroom ahead of everything else as far as cuts go and I do not believe that was the case with all the cuts in our budget.”