The DeKalb County School District will use its bonding ability to get a jumpstart on completing vital Educational Special Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) funded projects following upgrades to its financial ratings by two firms, according to a press release.

DCSD will obtain at least $134 million from general obligation funds that will be used to initiate technology and facilities projects identified in the 2016 E-SPLOST vote approved by DeKalb County voters by a 71 percent margin. Those bonds will be offered in early February and be repaid with E-SPLOST revenues to be collected starting in July.

Where exactly the $134 million will go is not yet known.

This advance financing comes on the heels of upgrades to the DCSD’s financial ratings by experts at Moody’s Investor’s Service and Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings. Because of these upgrades, the district will be able to obtain financing through the bonds at a reduced interest rate.

“The ability to fund these projects early is a result of our team acting as good stewards of resources provided by this community,” said Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green in the press release. “The families of DeKalb County believe in our vision, and the finance ratings firms believe in our balance sheet. We remain committed to excellence and building the best public school system for our taxpayers.”

Moody’s Investor’s Service has upgraded DCSD from “A1” to “Aa3,” based on the district’s large and diverse tax base, its positive trend of maintaining cash reserves and the “manageable” amount of debt on the district’s ledger.

Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings assigned its “AA” rating, its second highest level, to that same bond package. The rating was based on the strong tax base in DeKalb County, strong reserves that constitute nearly 12 percent of the district’s budget, and low debt.

Without this financing, the DeKalb schools would have likely waited five additional months before starting the latest round of E-SPLOST projects, according to school officials.

The DeKalb County Board of Education voted Dec. 5 to spend $561 million of E-SPLOST with nearly $85 million dedicated to building a new Cross Keys High School, currently at 1626 North Druid Hills Road in Brookhaven. The building could be built at the former Briarcliff High School site on North Druid Hills Road and west of I-85.
The new Cross Keys High School will have room for 2,500 students, while the current high school building will be renovated into a new middle school at a cost of $9.5 million and will hold 1,500 students, according to DeKalb schools.

The Dec. 5 vote also moved forward a deal with the city of Brookhaven to build a new $30 million John Robert Lewis Elementary School where Skyland Park currently is located. The school is named for civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Atlanta).

With a projected 2017 enrollment of 394 students, John Robert Lewis Elementary School will play a key role in relieving overcrowding in the Cross Keys cluster by receiving students from Montclair Elementary School, according to school officials.

Dunwoody High School will receive a two-story, 29-classroom addition for $16.9 million that the school’s council readily admits is not enough, but is a step in the right direction.

Improvements planned for DHS with E-SPLOST funds include a kitchen extension, a cafeteria extension, a new media center addition and the paving over a retention pond on the school’s property to add another 160 parking spaces for students.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.

One reply on “DeKalb schools to start E-SPLOST projects early after boost in financial ratings”

  1. I’m just glad several years after creating this pond that the land is going to be fixed properly. The money which could have been saved if it was done right the first time could have gone a long way for sports and in the classroom. The baseball field is sinking and dangerous; sometimes too wet to play games after rains. Perhaps this can be linked into the drainage issue solution before the parking lot goes in.

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