DeKalb Schools begins meetings about overruns on school improvements

Outside Clarkston High School, before a meeting Monday evening on options laying out funding issues for the DeKalb County School District's facilities projects, Joel Edwards held a sign calling for a forensic audit.

Edwards, of the government watchdog group Restore DeKalb, said the district's buildings have thousands of outstanding work orders for repairs to its structures, which does not instill confidence in how it spends on schoolhouse improvements. The district's plans to address nearly $100 million in cost increases for its Education-Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V (E-SPLOST V)  program include seeking up to $265 million for cost overruns and additional projects the district would complete.

“A lot of what was said and supposed to be done has not been done,” Edwards said. “Where is the money? Show us the money.”

The money would come from a property-tax increase over 15 years, and cost the owner of a $250,000 home in DeKalb about $90 a year. Dan Drake, the district’s interim chief operations officer, said before the meeting that major strides had been taken to address outstanding work orders on the district’s school buildings. Still, he said, there was more work to be done.

“We are not fully staffed where we need to be” in facilities, he said.

District officials laid out options during the meeting, which included about 85 attendees, for addressing the budget issues. Plans included removing some projects to offset cost overruns, adding projects after receiving the proposed additional tax funding and to possibly moving a popular magnet program from Chamblee Charter High School to the new Cross Keys High School when finished.

Additional meetings are planned for Chamblee High School on Tuesday, Miller Grove High School on Wednesday, Columbia High School on Sept. 4 and Lakeside High School on Sept. 10. All meetings will be at 7 p.m.