Monthly Archives: May 2013

DeKalb County Schools Budget

By: Nancy Jester
The DeKalb budget has been in the news lately.

The Superintendent is projecting more revenue will be available for the FY14 budget. Specifically, the Superintendent is projecting DCSS will end FY13 with revenues exceeding expenses. The primary source is accumulated money in the after school program accounts for various schools.
The after school programs accumulate money for the individual schools they serve. These funds are to be used at the discretion of the school leadership for purchasing resources for their school; much like fundraising money. It appears the accumulated money in these accounts is being appropriated to make the overall budget scenario rosier than it otherwise would be. The majority of the other funds cited as recently found, are “potential” or “estimated”. I most definitely oppose the use of after school program funds to be pooled into the general fund for budgeting purposes. It is a complete breach of trust. As for the other “potential” and “estimated” revenues, I have two thoughts: (1) DeKalb citizens should be vigilant so DCSS does not return to its previously, overly optimistic and spendthrift ways and (2) Will DCSS fire the individuals responsible for grant administration that, allegedly, failed to collect on grant administration money due the district? The failure to collect this revenue for years cannot be placed on a CFO that served approximately one year and came to the district in the middle of developing the last budget. Furthermore, this past fiscal year is one of the few we can point to that showed fiscal restraint and will end without seeing expenses exceed revenue. Had DeKalb been as prudent with past budgets, we would not have found ourselves in deficit. I have not seen the financial statement for FY12 (the state is currently auditing that year) but DCSS may have exceeded its budgeted expenditures by over $30 million. One simply cannot run a school district like that.
While I am pleased to hear the Superintendent say he will be cutting central office staffing, I will reserve judgment until I see and can verify the cuts. One item we have not seen on the chopping block is transportation to magnet programs over and above what is legally required by the district. Last year, had we cut this, we could have saved almost $3 million dollars. That money could buy back one furlough day or hire almost 50 teachers. Has the Board asked the Superintendent to look into these types of trade-offs within the budget?
The next budget hearing has been postponed until June 3rd. I hope the administration is working on these issues. Stay vigilant because, with citizens’ attention focused elsewhere, the Spring and Summer months often bring questionable votes with negative consequences. Remember cell towers?

04/23/2013 – Thurmond at TPC

Tucker Parent Council
Tue 04/23/2013 @ 6:30 PM

Meeting Summary
Michael Thurmond met with a concerned but agreeable Tucker Parent Council Tuesday afternoon on 4/23. Most of the concerns centered around over crowding and affidavits. Kirk Lunde, local watch dog, came prepared with capacity and planning data to back up parental concerns. Mr. Thurmond came prepared himself, bringing in tow Dan Drake, Director of Planning and SPLOST Programming at DeKalb County School District. As usual, the current data, as reported by Mr. Drake, didn’t match the data Mr. Lunde captured in recent reports. “At the end of the day”, as Mr. Thurmond likes to say, the real solution will be in fixing our low performing schools. One of his talking points on his county wide Parent Council tour is Enlighted Self Interest. “Enlightened self interest”, as defined by Mr. Thurmond, “will allow you to rise above the interest in your own child, your own school, your own neighborhood and become interested in the education of other people’s children.”
DCSD Updates

  • Top 15 High SchoolsUS News and World Report reported that 3 of the top 15 high schools in Georgia are in DeKalb.
  • Scholarships – DeKalb Chamber of Commerce raised about $125,000 dollars that will be distributed as scholarships.
  • Nepotism – A new nepotism policy will be addressed at the May board meeting.
  • Success For All – Surveys have returned, to no surprise, that teachers who have been using it are very much opposed to it.
  • Balanced Calendar – DCSD decided to backup and re-evaluate the balanced calendar
  • SACS – Looking forward to and excited about the upcoming visit.
  • $16 Million Dollar Deficit – In 2014 we will have an additional $16 million dollars in expenditures that we did not have in 2013
  • Enlightened Self Interest – Enlighted Self Interest will allow you to rise above the interest in your own child, your own school, your own neighborhood and become interested in the education of other people’s children.

Fact Checker

Thurmond: “I was surprised actually to find out that DeKalb does not currently have a policy prohibiting nepotism. We couldn’t find that we’ve ever had one. So, if you don’t have a policy against it, it’s kind of difficult to what … violate it.“
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: “State mandates and increases in insurance and benefits and step increases have increased our expenditures by about $16 million dollars.”
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. Please note that step increases are not COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) raises for employees. They are increases in pay required by the state’s pay scale of years employed.
Thurmond: “You all may or may not be aware, and it’s been over a decade since the DeKalb School District had or implemented or even followed a strategic plan for the district. Even had one.“
In 2011, DCSD spent a great deal of time and money on this strategic plan. As recommended by SACS, DCSD contracted with GSBA to “assure that the 2012–2017 plan is congruent with current and future needs, the 2011 Strategic Steering Committee will solicit input from parents, teachers, students, administrators, auxiliary staff, business, and civic leaders in order to develop the district’s strategic plan.”
Thurmond: “20% of our population speaks English as a second language.”
Parent: “So, how many [students] are currently attending Tucker High School?”
Kirk Lunde: “1,756”
Dan Drake: “Our last enrollment report, March 25th, showing 1,655”
I’m incredulous the administration never pulls out the same number twice. I’m convinced whoever is in charge of enrollment/capacity numbers could count their ears twice and come up with a different number each time.
Note: Kirk’s numbers are from October.