#TBT – 2012 – DeKalb Schools Overspends By $32M On Legal Fees

On Throw Back Thursday I welcome Ty Tagami to DeKalb Schools. For years Nancy Jester has been pointing out that the DeKalb Schools budget was a “a weak suggestion on how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception.”
Earlier this week, the AJC printed Ty Tagami’s article, DeKalb school officials admit overspending millions on lawyers. He noted, “Over the decade that ended in 2012, the DeKalb County School District spent nearly $32 million more than it budgeted for legal fees”.
Tagami spoke recently with DeKalb Schools officials.  Chief Financial Officer Mike Bell said he discovered the payouts hidden in “other” expenses disbursed from the district’s reserve fund. Superintendent Michael Thurmond, who tasked Bell with uncovering what happened, called the spending a “breathtaking” failure in oversight.
Let’s journey back in time to Aug 28, 2012 when AdvancedEd sent a letter to DeKalb Schools stating, “The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council (SACS) has received numerous complaints … [that] allege that the Board of Education has failed to ensure that the financial resources of the school system are budgeted and allocated within the means of the school system”.  Note that SACS didn’t investigate themselves but just forwarded the complaints.
The Superintendent du jour, Dr. Atkinson replied, “As the new Superintendent, I have worked with the Board to address the budget and financial concerns and have aligned the budget within our projected revenue. We will monitor the FY 2013 budget carefully for compliance.” (September 13, 2012)
Nancy Jester’s response (September 13, 2012) to the letters from SACS and Dr. Atkinson included,

“Regarding the fiscal management of the district, since almost the very beginning of my time on the board (January 11), I began to unravel what appeared to me to be a budget that was, at best, a weak suggestion on how to spend money and, at worst, a document based on deception. Monthly, I queried, the CFO at the time and did not receive answers that could withstand the scrutiny of the facts. I have been specifically focused on the large variance in our electricity budget and our legal fees.”

Better late than never on confirming what Nancy has been saying for years.  I look forward to reading the AJC in 2016 to see what is really going on this year at DeKalb Schools.

4 responses to “#TBT – 2012 – DeKalb Schools Overspends By $32M On Legal Fees

  1. DeKalb School Watch

    DeKalb School Watch has asked repeatedly for DeKalb County Schools to be open and transparent regarding finances. An easy way to do that is an open checkbook. With a true open checkbook, it is likely that the issue would have been caught and identified before millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars were stolen from our children and teachers. Of course, that is assuming that DCS did not purposely mislabel payments and/or pay under the table.

  2. Amen, Stan. As if this is new news, right? They think they found the holy grail when the rest of us are saying, “DUH.” Looking forward to your time on the board. If nothing else, your insightful remarks will be on record, as Nancy’s are.

  3. Agreed. DSW has been an advocate for parents, students, educators and the community at large for a long time.
    Please visit http://www.dekalbschoolwatch.com/ and http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/ chronicling their advocacy.
    One of many germane posts on DSW that caught my attention, DeKalb schools’ legal bill to double in 2013.
    The Daily Report recently reported that DeKalb schools’ legal bill will double in 2013 to an astounding number. Guess. Just take a quick guess. Guess how many of your hard-earned tax dollars will be sent to the coffers of law … Continue reading →

  4. John Oselette, District #4 DeKalb School Board candidate, ran on many of the suggestions seen on DSW. DSW posted Oselette’s anwers to Howdy1942’s questions. Here is an excerpt:
    1) I would work with my colleagues on the Board to immediately begin the formal search process for a professional, experienced and highly successful Superintendent.
    2) I would work with my colleagues on the Board to institute financial reforms, beginning with switching to an Accrual Accounting Method.
    3) I would work with my colleagues on the Board to institute an on-line check register so every expense is accounted for, viewable to and searchable by the public.