DeKalb Schools approves $1.1B budget for 2019

The DeKalb County Board of Education approved a $1.1 billion operating budget for the 2019 fiscal year during a called meeting Tuesday night, up nearly $70 million from the previous year.

The 2019 fiscal year begins Sunday and runs through June 30, 2019. DeKalb now has the second-largest budget among metro Atlanta school districts, trailing only Gwinnett County Schools, but spends among the lowest per student.

VIDEO: In other DeKalb schools news

District officials said much of the increase was due to a mandatory retirement benefit contribution and $23 million in salary and benefits for a comp and class study. Other additions include two new regional superintendent cabinets, which cost about $1.5 million in salary and benefits when fully staffed. The district also has announced it is spending $3 million for an Early Learning Academy, which will accept up to 200 3-year-old students in August. 

It also includes a millage rate of 23.18 mills, down from 23.28 in 2018, but still reflects about a 7 percent collection increase due to increased property valuations.

Tuesday night, parent Nancy Kelly commented during a millage rate public hearing that she was concerned the school district gave residents so little time with the detailed budget. She saw it for the first time just last week, and had been waiting for it to appear. “I’m extremely reluctant to approve a millage rate” that includes a tax increase, she said.

DeKalb County School District officials came under fire last year for initially refusing to make the district's detailed budget readily available. District officials initially told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the documents would be placed on the school district website following approval. Several residents mentioned the missing documents during public hearings.

The documents eventually were placed on the district’s website the weekend before DeKalb County Board of Education members voted to approve the district’s first $1 billion budget.

The budget is up more than $220 million since Superintendent Steve Green joined the district in 2015, and about $340 million since 2013, a trend seen nationally as conditions continue to improve from The Great Recession. Green has said the increases have been done to improve student outcomes, though little movement has been made there.