DeKalb, Decatur school officials praise passage of annexation bill

Senate Bill 293, which was signed into law Monday by Gov. Brian Kemp, spells out how the school systems will divide up funding on property annexed by the city of Decatur.

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Senate Bill 293, which was signed into law Monday by Gov. Brian Kemp, spells out how the school systems will divide up funding on property annexed by the city of Decatur.

DeKalb and Decatur schools, city and county government officials are celebrating the passage of legislation they say will protect funding for students when property is annexed into municipal boundaries.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 293 into law this week. It spells out how the DeKalb County Schools and City Schools of Decatur will allocate funding to their respective districts on property annexed into the city.

Vickie Turner, DeKalb County board of education chair, said Kemp’s stamp of approval is a “momentous occasion” for the school systems, which put aside their own agendas to work together on an issue that’s dogged both sides for years.

“Let me be clear,” she said. “Our students won this week. The students of DeKalb County School District and the students of Decatur city schools district, they are the winners.”

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Beginning July 1, any property annexed by the city will be added to the school system’s boundaries. DeKalb County students who live in areas annexed by Decatur won’t be required to change districts during the school year, according to the bill.

Student who are entering grades 5, 8, 11 or 12 will also be allowed to remain in their respective school systems until they finish those years.

Education property taxes collected on properties annexed by the city will be allocated to City Schools of Decatur. Decatur schools will then distribute to the DeKalb County School System an amount equal to all taxes collected on properties zoned commercial or mixed-use properties where the primary use is commercial.

Maggie Fehrman, City Schools of Decatur superintendent, said she was happy to collaborate with DeKalb County and “hopes that this is the first of many new partnerships to come.”

“I honestly believe that this will be a great relationship,” she said.

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DeKalb County schools raised concerns about how annexation could affect its funding when in 2017 the city of Atlanta annexed 744 acres, including Emory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

DeKalb County schools filed a lawsuit against Atlanta, seeking to retain the students and tax dollars affected by the annexation. Atlanta Public Schools in 2019 settled with DeKalb schools, and both districts agreed to evenly split an estimated $2.7 million in annual property tax revenue collected from the annexed area for five years.

Another bill signed into law by Kemp, Senate Bill 209, addresses the sticking points of that annexation battle. It says Atlanta Public Schools’ boundaries can only change with legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly or through an intergovernmental agreement between DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta. It also allows students entering grades 5, 8, 11 and 12 students to stay with their school systems until they finish those years.