The DeKalb County Board of Education approved its $2.6 billion final budget for fiscal year 2023, which will cover raises for employees, new positions and maintenance costs.
These measures will be accomplished in part by an increase in tax revenue. After fielding resident requests to lower taxes this year, the board voted in early June to keep the tax rate the same.
This is the fifth consecutive year the tax rate has stayed at $23.08 per $1,000 of taxable property value. Because property values have gone up, residents will be paying more in taxes than they did last year.
“We need every penny we can get to address the concerns stakeholders want, but we also don’t want to price people out” of the county, board member Allyson Gevertz said when the board voted on the tax rate.
But other board members had concerns about reducing the district’s income or limiting itself in the future.
“Right now, no one knows where our economy is headed,” board member Deirdre Pierce said at the earlier meeting. “We could very easily find ourselves in another financial crisis if we’re not careful.”
Some residents, upon receiving a higher tax bill, already feel like they’re in crisis.
The tax increase for a home with a fair market value of $300,000 is approximately $361. The tax increase for a non-homestead home with a fair market value of $500,000 is roughly $578.
“In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in a time of rampant inflation,” DeKalb resident Jeff Mueller told the board in early June. He asked that board members “provide a millage rollback that respects the challenges your constituents are now facing.”
Although the tax rate didn’t change, the budget, which takes effect July 1, acknowledges the current era of price hikes. In addition to raises for employees that will average 2%, employees are getting an extra $2,000 raise to cover inflation costs, said Chief Financial Officer Charles Burbridge. The district will also bring its minimum wage up to $15 an hour this year. Those measures total $75 million of the district’s overall budget.
“This is a budget that supports the district staff,” Burbridge said Thursday before the school board’s vote on the budget.
The final budget also includes $6 million to add campus security, school resource officers and campus supervisors; $4 million to add psychologists, nurses, social workers and counselors; and $4 million to hire special education teachers, speech language pathologists, paraprofessionals and ESOL interpreters.
And the general fund sets aside $50 million to tackle deferred maintenance in schools — a huge point of contention for Georgia’s third-largest district in recent months, after poor conditions at Druid Hills High School prompted state intervention.