School Board Reluctantly Approves New Budget

August 12, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education reluctantly adopted the 2010-11 budget for schools Thursday night, as approved by the county commission Tuesday night.

Even though the budget includes $10,768 more local money than the board of education had requested, school board members were upset that the county commission had reduced the property tax rate for schools from 49 cents to 48 cents per $100 of assessed value. And since one cent of the tax rate generates $47,023 in local money or $44,320 with a 5.75% delinquency rate figured into the equation, board members say that's how much more the school system would have had this year, had the one cent reduction not been made. That extra money, they say, could have been used to hire another teacher.

For that reason, the school board initially voted 5 to 1 to reject the school budget. Seventh district board member Johnny Lattimore made a motion to pass it and first district member John David Foutch offered a second to the motion. But during the roll call vote, Foutch voted no along with fellow board members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Kenny Rhody, Bruce Parsley, and Board Chairman Charles Robinson. Lattimore voted yes and fourth district member Joan Draper was absent.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby then asked that the board members to take a recess apparently to explain to them that they had little choice but to adopt the spending plan, since schools can't operate without a budget. After the break, another vote was taken. Lattimore again made the motion to pass the budget and Foutch again offered a second to the motion. This time Foutch voted yes along with Lattimore, Rhody, and Robinson. But Evins and Parsley again voted no. So the budget was adopted 4-2.

Evins says this is not the first year that the county commission has cut the property tax rate for schools and re-allocated it to other departments of county government. According to Evins, several years ago, about two thirds of the county property tax rate was allocated for schools and the sinking fund (local option sales tax fund) which is also for schools, was used only for capital outlay expenditures, the way it was meant to be. Today, he says only about a third of the property tax rate goes to schools, and the county commission is using $1.5 million of the sinking fund for school operation plus over $500,000 for debt service. And while the tax rate for schools is decreasing, Evins says the tax rate for the county general fund has increased by twenty cents within the last two years, going from 55 cents to 75 cents.

When the sales tax referendum was approved by the voters in May 2007 raising the local option sales tax rate in DeKalb County from 1.5% to 2.75%, Evins says the public was told by county officials that the extra money derived from the increase would go to schools. And while the school system did receive the extra sales tax funds, the property tax rate for schools was cut by an equal amount, essentially putting schools right back where they were. "The sales tax referendum was passed with the understanding that the money was going to schools, but an equal or greater amount of money was taken away from the schools by reducing our property tax rate sixteen and a half cents and debt service by two cents, which makes eighteen and a half cents."

County Mayor Mike Foster insists that before the sales tax referendum was passed it was explained to the public that property tax payers would be getting an overall 19 or 20 cent property tax break, if the referendum were approved " That was the intent. It was the design that the sales tax would take the place of part of the property tax rate for schools. We made that clear in the (public) meetings and when it (referendum) was voted on and that's exactly what has been done."

Evins also pointed out that even though the school budget is more than $18 million, the 48 cent tax rate generates $2,127,365. The rest is from state and federal sources.

In order to balance the budget this year, the school board is expected to appropriate $712,000 of the local school system's share of state Basic Education Program (BEP) reserves as one-time expenditures and $58,476 of Technology Reserves.

Last year, the school board used federal stimulus funds to fund several positions that might have been eliminated due to insufficient funds. But since stimulus funds were only guaranteed for two years, board members are concerned about what might happen next year, if those funds are gone.

In other business the board of education approved a request for the DeKalb County Little League to make some improvements of their facilities.

In a letter to Director Mark Willoughby, Jonathan Norris, President of the DeKalb County Little League, explained why the improvements were needed. "We have nearly 300 kids in our program and we are severely limited on playing fields for them. We are wanting to build another game field in an existing area that we are currently using as a practice field. This would, of course, be at no cost to the DeKalb County Board of Education and would be fully funded by the DeKalb County Little League, board members, and donors to our program. The only actual addition to the existing property required would be a new fence to regulate the boundaries of our field and possibly lights in the future, as our funds allow."

The board voted 5-1 to grant approval for DeKalb County High School to charge student fees in certain courses. Board member Bruce Parsley voted no.

The requests were made by teachers in the Nutrition and Foods and the Science, Family and Consumer Science classes as well as PACE (a transition class for the Freshman Academy) and the E4TN on-line class which benefits students seeking to earn dual credit for high school and college. (To read more about this issue click the following link to read last month's school board story http://www.wjle.com/news/2010/school-board-consider-request-student-fees...)

The board approved a request by DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix to allow the football, basketball, softball, and baseball teams to practice during the fourth block of school each day. The football team will practice during the fall semester only. The basketball teams will practice during the second and third nine week periods. The baseball and softball teams will practice during the spring semester only. This is the same schedule that the high school has been following for the last several years.

Approval was granted for the DCHS girls soccer team to attend a tournament at Franklin County High School in Winchester September 18th-19th.

In his monthly written update on personnel, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby reports that the following personnel have been granted a leave of absence as requested:

Amanda Brown, DCHS teacher
Dorothy Duggin, DeKalb West School custodian
Sabrina Kirksey, Northside Elementary School teacher
LeVaughnda Midgett, Smithville Elementary School teacher
Amanda Mullinax, DeKalb West School teacher
Penny Smitty, DeKalb Middle School teacher
Amy Tobitt, DCHS teacher
Betsey Walker, Northside Elementary Special Education teacher

Retired:

Jan Alexander, DeKalb Middle School teacher
Pat Allen, DeKalb West School teacher
Betty Boss, DeKalb West Educational Assistant
Betty Hickey, Smithville Elementary teacher
Eddie Judkins, Maintenance
Kathy Lawrence, DeKalb West teacher
Larry Steffee, DCHS teacher
Mary Summers, Food Service Supervisor, as of August 31st

Resignations:

Betty Cooper, Northside Elementary cafeteria employee
Tonya Dickens, Smithville Elementary School Special Education teacher
Megan Hardin, DeKalb West School teacher
Rebecca Oliver, DCHS English as a Second Language teacher
Lori Page, DCHS teacher
Jennifer Peek, Smithville Elementary Pre-K teacher
Diane Trapp, Northside Elementary Bookkeeper

New Hires:

Shawn Baker, DeKalb West School teacher
Jenny Cantrell, DeKalb West School teacher
Karen Caplinger, Northside Elementary Bookkeeper
Jennifer Cowan, Smithville Elementary School Special Education Educational Assistant
Andrew Dixon, DCHS teacher
Jason Farley, DeKalb Middle School teacher
Denise Graham, DeKalb West School teacher
Melissa Hale, Northside Elementary teacher
Lisa Hull, Northside Elementary teacher
Cathleen Humphreys, DeKalb West School teacher
Ben Johnson, DCHS Special Education teacher
Angela Johnson, Smithville Elementary teacher
Jennifer Judkins, Smithville Elementary English as a Second Language teacher
Ginda Kilgore, DCHS Special Education Educational Assistant
Leah Magness, DeKalb Middle School teacher
Jennifer Martin, Northside Elementary Educational Assistant
Shayln Morgan, DCHS teacher
Holly Owen, Smithville Elementary Special Education Educational Assistant
Sara Parker, DCHS Counselor
Mary Ann Puckett, DCHS teacher
Allison Rigsby, Smithville Elementary School Pre-K teacher
Judy Rose, Northside Elementary Educational Assistant
Kristen Strickland, Smithville Elementary teacher
David Turner, Substitute bus driver
Vicky Walker, DeKalb Middle School Educational Assistant
Elizabeth Wiegele, DCHS Special Education teacher
Kathryn Wisinger, DCHS English as a Second Language teacher
Aaron Young, Maintenance

Transfers:

Lisa Bell, data analysis to new position
Heather Blankenship, Northside Elementary Special Education Educational Assistant to replace an employee who transferred
James Carroll, DCHS Custodian to a full time position
Wendy Colvert, Smithville Elementary teacher to Special Education Pre-School
Christie Driver, School Nurse (Funding Source Change Only)
Jason Farley, Northside Elementary Educational Assistant, employed as a teacher
Beverly Ferrell, DCHS Educational Assistant (Funding Source Change Only)
Amy Fox, half time Special Education Compliance Monitor and half time Instructional Leader (Funding Source Change Only)
Lori Isabell, Northside Elementary teacher
Anna Johnson, Smithville Elementary teacher, from Title IIA to TitleI (Funding Source Change Only)
Dwight Knowles, bus driver, now a full time driver
Mike Lambert, DeKalb Middle School Custodian, to a full time position
Penelope Mason, Site Coordinator from a 12 month to an 11 month position
Adrianne McCormick, Smithville Elementary teacher, to K position
Rebecca Moss, Northside Elementary Educational Assistant (Funding Source Change Only)
Pam Sanders, DeKalb West Special Educational teacher
Linda Sorrell, DCHS Educational Special Educational Assistant (Funding Source Change Only)
Teresa Spencer, Smithville Elementary Special Educational Assistant (Funding Source Change Only)
Suzanne Williams, DCHS Educational Assistant (Funding Source Change Only)

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