04/17/2013 Michael Thurmond at ELPC

Michael Thurmond spoke with the Emory Lavista Parent Council Wednesday, April 17 about the state of the school system.

Meeting Summary
Wherever you see Michael Thurmond speak, he’s usually delivering one of the following talking points. The ELPC meeting this past Wednesday was no different.

  • Assets – In any crisis situation the first priority is not so much to focus so much on the crisis and the deficit, but to focus on the assets.
  • Central Office is only 6% of Employees – 6% of the total number of employees actually work in the central office. I was shocked. I didn’t believe it.
  • Parental Engagement – Student achievement is correlated to parental involvement. We’re gonna have a much more aggressive investment strategy and focus on getting parents involved.
  • North/South DeKalb Divide – One side isn’t favored by the administration over another.
  • Enlightened Self Interest – When you become interested in other people’s children.
  • Most Unpopular Guy In DeKalb – You not going to be totally happy and no one else. But the decisions will have to be made.

Fact Checker

Thurmond: “I’m a researcher by heart. I’m not sure people know that. I love to research. So, I said OK. Let’s research the policy to see where we stand related to nepotism. What we found out was DeKalb School District did not have a policy prohibiting nepotism.”
There is an Employment Of Relatives Policy, but it just doesn’t use the word ‘Nepotism’. The policy is consistent with state law which prevents the hiring and promotion of relatives of the board to positions of AP or higher. It delineates when board members must abstain from voting on a hire. It demands that every employee disclose all familial relationships with the board and senior staff. If an employee does not, they are subject to termination.
“The District permits the employment of qualified relatives of employees, provided such employment does not, in the judgment of the Superintendent or his/her designee, create actual or perceived conflicts of interest. d. All District employees are required to disclose, on an annual basis, whether they are a relative of any other current District employee.”
Thurmond: “6% of the total number of employee actually work in the central office.”
Slide 7 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Development Presentation given on April 16, 2013
Of the 10,429 employees paid for by the General Fund, 622 employees are Central Office. That’s 6% of the employees.
As noted on slide 6, Mr. Thurmond neglects to mention the 982 employees paid for by Special Revenue and 11 employees paid for by SPLOST.
When Thurmond says 6%, he only means paid from the General Fund. It doesn’t account for the other categories which are 20% of the employees.
Thurmond: “Based on recent legislative decisions, we will have an increase of about $16 Million dollars in expenditures. Mostly health and retirement benefits that the state has dictated.”
While it is true that benefit costs determined by the state have increased, this happens frequently. DCSD should be able to build in some increases to benefits just as private companies are forced to do.
Thurmond: “DeKalb Tax Assessors Office, revenues, at least the county ad valorem tax revenue will be flat. About $734 million dollars.
Property values have decreased, but in 2012 the DeKalb County Board Of Education voted to raise the millage rate to 23.98. It is one of the highest in the state.
Thurmond: “We will get a slight increase in revenue from state government because we’ve had an increase in student body.”
Thurmond: “before we go to work, is a deficit of about 2%.”
Thurmond: “When you have a property tax base that declines by $7 billion dollars from the beginning of the recession to right now, the overall ad valor em tax base in this county had declined by $7 billion dollars.”
The property values have declined. One mil of property tax does not yield as much revenue as it did a few years back. However, DCSD received federal stimulus money to offset declining property tax revenue. We are in a business cycle that is not generating a rapid recovery to the most substantial loss of real estate values in our lifetime. Given the sustained, and thus now predictable, smaller tax base, we should have made significant structural changes to the district to ensure the sustainability of DCSD in this economic climate.
Thurmond: “The state has continued to reduce its investment in local public education.”
DCSD will receive more money from the state this year than it did last year. The state isn’t reducing the QBE amount from last year. QBE, by the way, is just a formula and was never intended to be fully funded.

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