DeKalb Board of Education approves tentative $1.2B budget

The nearly $1.2 billion tentative operating budget approved late Monday by the DeKalb County Board of Education includes resources to address facilities maintenance issues and for each teacher to receive the $3,000 pay raise approved by Gov. Brian Kemp.

It also comes in above what the district expects to recoup in tax revenues, despite a proposed increase in tax revenues that would promise the district more than it collected during the current school year.

Bell told the board during his presentation, after 8 p.m. Monday, that the district’s budgets have grown an average of about $70 million since 2016. That’s not the case, as the district’s approved budgets have grown about $340 million in those four years, an average of about $85 million.

The tentative 2019-2020 budget is now $98 million over last year’s approved budget of $1.097 billion. At $1.195 billion, it also is $28 million more than the district expects from tax collections.

“What that means is … if this is executed perfectly, it will knock down the fund balance,” he said, saying the district would dip into its reserves to offset overspending.

Bell cautioned that while the district’s budget continues to grow, the district will see another year where the number of full-time positions decreases. If there was a time to take a look at the number of administrative positions currently in the district, Bell said now would be a good time to see how many were actually needed.

“The district has strategic challenges,” he said, including annexation worries, tax abatement impacts and pending litigation on a decision by a previous board to halt retirement contributions.

Bell also mentioned that the district would receive an additional $22 million from the state to implement Kemp’s pay raise, though it will cost the district about $28 million to give the raise and cover associated benefits. Superintendent Steve Green said he wanted people to hear that the governor’s raise was always expected to trickle down to teachers.

“It’s in here. It’s been in here from the very beginning,” he said, mentioning communication from people who had apparently heard otherwise.

“But we haven’t put it out there,” said DeKalb County Board of Education member Joyce Morley. “They need to hear it loudly and publicly that it’s going to take place.”

The tentative budget was approved after urging from Bell and words from outside legal counsel Nina Gupta, who said the tentative adoption allows the public time to go through the process. Twice before Bell’s and Gupta’s words, board members offered no motion to approve the budget.