DeKalb School District Boosts Budget Surplus to $30.9 Million: Truth be Told

News Release 8 September 2014

The DeKalb County School District today announced a 35-percent increase in its projected surplus for Fiscal Year 2014, reporting an additional $10.9 million in projected reserves over the $20 million surplus previously reported.

Superintendent Michael Thurmond cited an increase in revenue collections as well as lower expenditures to produce a projected FY14 fund balance of $30.9 million.

“The additional $10.9 million in reserves demonstrates that we are making significant progress in stabilizing the finances of the DeKalb County School District,” said Mr. Thurmond. “Our goal is a fund balance of $66 million. We’re just halfway there, but we are confident that we will reach that milestone.” When Mr. Thurmond was appointed interim superintendent in February 2013, the general operating fund balance stood at only $100,000.

Earlier this year, the district announced an anticipated surplus of $20 million in a budget that made new investments in instruction, technology and school safety. The FY14 budget also eliminated furlough days, and provided the first pay raises to teachers and staff in six years.

“We’ve maximized existing revenue streams, reduced legal expenses and have gained better control over personnel costs,” said Dr. Melvin Johnson, Chair of the DeKalb Board of Education.

“We now have more accurate projections of our costs, and we’re avoiding the overspending that occurred in the past. There has been a tremendous turnaround in legal expenses alone, allowing us to shift those dollars from courtrooms to classrooms.”

“We’ve made significant progress in a short period of time,” said Mr. Thurmond, “and we have every expectation of attaining full financial health for the DeKalb County School District.”

+++

Ok. Well and good. And a far cry from where we were in 2012 [broke]. But keep in mind, this increase is essentially a windfall. When property values decreased during the Great Recession, the previous board increased the millage rate on property taxes in order to generate the revenue budgeted. In fact, the overall operating budget increased by $9 million FY 2013 – the year after that tax increase and $19 million more in FY 2014. Now that values have returned to where they were previously, this board did NOT roll back the millage rate. Instead, they are enjoying the windfall of increased tax collections due to increased property values plus an increased millage rate. In fact, the estimated operating budget for FY 2015 is projected to increase yet again, by another $17 million, much of it due to property tax increases. Overall, the school district has collected an increase of at least $45 million in revenues over three years, all while crying poor.

Simply put, FY14 local revenue was about $25 million more than anticipated. And the school district also received $7.5 million in the Heery settlement which is considered revenue. Together, they nearly make up the $30 million in additional revenue.

And yes, while we are pleased that the Heery case was settled and we won’t be getting billed by King & Spalding for that case anymore, we remain concerned that we still employ too many lawyers and our legal fees budget will once again end the year in a deficit. We now have one main legal firm, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, as General Counsel at an earned retainer rate of $65,000, per month, plus expenses, along with several others contracted for specialty work according to Ron Ramsey’s report in the August 4, 2014 minutes, in addition to Thurmond’s own hiring of McKenna Long & Aldridge to the tune of $50,000 a month for ‘board governance training’. As far as we can tell, we have paid them over a half-million thus far for this training. Yet, still, word from the administration remains, “we can’t afford a full forensic audit.”

Also, while those ‘controls over personnel costs’ have mostly meant cuts to teachers and school staff, not administrative personnel, please keep in mind, they have not even uttered a word about reinstating the contributions taken away from teachers’ pensions, which account for millions in budget cuts. Annuity pension contributions that were promised decades ago in exchange for agreeing to forgo Social Security — were cut completely in 2010. Now, all teachers have is the state’s Teacher’s Retirement System for their retirement savings – no annuity and no Social Security. And yet, in spite of these horrific cuts to teachers and staff, our board remains proud of their ‘fiscal’ actions.

It ain’t right. We take in plenty of money to pay teachers well and to attract the best and brightest teachers into our classrooms. Some serious budget adjustments, prioritizing and consolidations still need to occur. While it’s true that some legal fees have been reduced, tax collections have increased and teacher cuts remain in effect, resulting in these new budget increases. Bottom line: an awful lot of heavy work is yet to be done in order to create a sustainable, successful system in perpetuity.

+++
According to the FY15 budget, General Fund revenue has been going through the roof the last few years:
FY2012: $755 million
FY2013: $764 million
FY2014: $785 million*
FY2015: $802 million**

*FY14 revenue is extrapolated from June 2014 actuals. **FY2015 is estimated in the budget. Note: FY14 local revenue was about $25 million more than anticipated. The school district also received $7.5 million in the Heery settlement which is considered revenue.

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53 Responses to DeKalb School District Boosts Budget Surplus to $30.9 Million: Truth be Told

  1. They still need to cut all those useless admin jobs, the easiest way would be approve the Druid hills charter, the Brookhaven charter, followed by a Dunwoody cluster charter and so forth.

    I do not see why they don’t do the simplest one of all an outsource payroll to some one like ADP. That would be one of the most painless and efficient cuts of all.

  2. e@another: we have suggested the same thing several times: outsource payroll. Easy peasy. And reasonable. And ADP, First Data and PayChex all have staff that keep up with the ever-changing laws.

  3. teachermom says:

    I am hearing first hand that Lakeside added a math teacher that has such a heavy accent the students cannot understand her, they switched the students into her class. When the parents and students tried to switch back out they were not allowed to. Everyone ignored the elephant in the room, which was this teacher is unintelligible to her students.

    All I can think of is that she has gotten my step increases and for what? Surely we could have taken some of this surplus and recruited, hired, and retained teachers who speak the language of the students.

  4. When I saw the small article on the surplus in the AJC last week, I knew you would soon have a post on the subject. Your article is spot on too! Thanks for once again providing info to show how Thurmond and his team just spin the facts to make themselves look good. I am hoping that Stan Jester, when he takes office, will be able to create a coalition of fellow members who will focus on finding us a proper superintendent with the credentials and commitment to take back the school system and move it in the right direction.

  5. I hope everyone unites and vote Nancy jester in on the county Commisioner seat so her calculator can be put to use again.

  6. Teachers matter says:

    The thumbs down votes are highly suspicious. How could anyone possibly side with the shenanigans of this county?

  7. dsw2contributor says:

    Teachers matter: the shenanigans of this county provide job security for Ty Tagami and Sally Quillian Yates…..they must be the two thumbs down voters! 🙂

  8. Same old same old says:

    Not everyone who reads this blog is a fan of outsourcing or the Jesters. It’s pretty clear that you are all just talking to yourselves when a couple of disagreeing readers seem suspicious.

  9. dsw2contributor says:

    teachermom – several times during the summer, I posted the DCSD list of vacant teaching and principal positions. I also posted the list the vacancies over at the AJC.

    The truth is that DCSD can no longer recruit or retain qualified educators. Very people get how bad it is. Hell, the other day this blog reported “Shockingly, the DeKalb School District left over 300 state-funded teaching jobs on the plate”. Shockingly? No, the headline should have been “No S— Sherlock, the DCSD passed on 300 state-funded teaching because there was no (expletive-deleted) way Tekisha Ward-Smith could fill 650 teaching vacancies.”

    As for your complaint that “Lakeside added a math teacher that has such a heavy accent the students cannot understand her”, be thankful that Lakeside actually has that math teacher. PATS currently shows seven vacancies for high school math teachers:

    Teacher, Mathematics – HS 7
    COLUMBIA HIGH 1
    CROSS KEYS HIGH 1
    ELIZABETH ANDREWS HIGH SCHOOL 1
    EMPLOYMENT SERVICES HS 1
    MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. H.S. 2
    MILLER GROVE HIGH 1

  10. dsw2contributor says:

    Right now, PATS is showing openings for 3 Principals, 3 Assistant Principals, 27 Paras and 80 (EIGHTY!) Teachers:

    Principal, High School 2
    CROSS KEYS HIGH 1
    SOUTHWEST DEKALB HIGH SCHOOL 1
    Principal, Middle School 1
    CHAMBLEE MIDDLE 1

    Assistant Principal (MS) 2
    SALEM MIDDLE 1
    SEQUOYAH MIDDLE 1
    Assistant Principal (HS) 1
    DUNWOODY HIGH 1

    Paraprofessional-ESOL High Sch 1
    Paraprofessional-Interrelated 3
    Paraprofessional-ISS (High) 1
    Paraprofessional-Kindergarten 1
    Paraprofessional-PRE-K Sp Ed 3
    Paraprofessional-PreK 7
    Paraprofessional-S/PID 1
    Para, Spec Ed 2
    Para, Special Ed 5
    Para, Speech/Language 734 1
    Para, Title I Elem 1
    Para, Title I HS 1

    Teacher, Art 3
    Teacher, Art High School 1
    Teacher, Art PT 1
    Teacher, Behavior Disord GNETS 1
    Teacher, Biology High School 1
    Teacher, Business Ed-Comp. HS 1
    Teacher, Culinary Arts HS 2
    Teacher, EIP Mathematics 4-5 1
    Teacher, Engineer & Tech. HS 1
    Teacher, English – HS 1
    Teacher, English Middle School 1
    Teacher, ESOL 2
    Teacher, ESOL – Part Time 1
    Teacher, ESOL Middle School 2
    Teacher, ESOL High School 1
    Teacher, Family & Consumer HS 1
    Teacher, Gifted 1
    Teacher, Grade 2 1
    Teacher, Grade 3 2
    Teacher, Grade 4 3
    Teacher, Interrelated 9
    Teacher, Kindergarten 1
    Teacher, Lottery Fund PreK/Cer 2
    Teacher, Math Ch.Destiny Acad. 1
    Teacher, Math (MS) 1
    Teacher, Mathematics – HS 7
    Teacher, MID 3
    Teacher, MID/MOID 5
    Teacher, Occupational Therapy 1
    Teacher, P/T – Latin 1
    Teacher, P/T Special Ed 1
    Teacher, Reading Specialist HS 1
    Teacher, Sci Ch.Destiny Acad. 1
    Teacher, Science – HS 4
    Teacher, Science (MS) 1
    Teacher, Spanish Middle Sch. 1
    Teacher, Spanish High School 4
    Teacher, Substitute – Sub/Reti 1
    Teacher, S/PID 4
    Teacher, Tech Lab 1
    Teacher, Title I Elem School 2

  11. howdy1942 says:

    It just seems to me like an audit of the school system would put so many questions that have been raised on this blog to rest. We are told that such an audit would be very expensive, but how much is it costing the taxpayers not to have such an audit? What is it that this administration so fears about conducting such an audit? It just seems to me like this could be a very positive step forward to restoring the trust of the public and that would be worth a lot.

    As it stands now, I’m not sure about this $30 million. Maybe when Stan Jester gets on the board and he tells us that it does exist, then maybe we can begin to accept that figure. Such trust is so critical to all of the initiatives that this administration wants to take and a full audit would answer the questions so essential to making that happen. The public has been lied to so often, read so much in the AJC and in reports from SACS, and witnessed so much corruption and outright fraud in the DCSS that it justified in remaining skeptical of everything this administration says without a credible source of reference.

    I’m delighted to see that Heery case “settled”. It should never have existed in the first place. How much is this teacher lawsuit costing the taxpayers? Might it not be less expensive to simply reach some accord with the teachers and, at the same time, ameliorate the issues that exist between the teachers and administration? And how much money have the taxpayers spent on that “governance” training and how many times has the board met to be “trained”? How long will that “training” take place? I’m baffled to think that people intelligent enough to run for the school board need to be “trained” to do that job. Why were they running if they did not understand what they were getting into? Why were they elected? If they had questions, they do have the library, extensive sources of knowledge on the Web, and they have a phone which could be used to call people who are in the know. Besides, we seem to have a school board just down the road in Gwinnett that seems to know what it is doing and I’m sure that they are friendly neighbors who would be happy to provide some information. And how much are we paying that “placement” firm in the “little white house in Chamblee” to place teachers? Why can’t an HR department headed by a person with a doctorate not be able to understand what its personnel requirements are and repeatedly fail year after year to even come close to fulfilling those requirements? I”m surprised to learn that payroll is still being processed in-house – that should have been outsourced years ago as it has been done by virtually every other organization of any size and I hope that the checks of employees are being direct-deposited!

    Until this administration and board decides to listen to the people, start “doing” rather than “talking”, understands that a lack of trust is the main issue, resolves teacher issues, and gets the priority back on the classroom, whatever they say will be regarded as just so much babble.

  12. teachermom says:

    Same Old– you are suspicious? if you doubt that Lakeside and other schools have math teachers who can’t be understood saying “get out a piece of paper” then you are deluded. We have money to pay qualified teachers; but a very bad rep among educators, probably because we don’t actually use the money to pay them.

  13. Mary says:

    I can tell you that as a teacher of 27+ but on year 9 with Dekalb, I am hanging in there until I hit year 10 only for TRS and benefits such as they are. I love teaching but when the admin takes more time than face to face with your child, I’m out! I know many great teachers in the same position. I’m ashamed that our profession has come to this.

  14. Mary — you are making a very costly, uneducated choice by staying with DCS until you complete your 10th year of employment and then retiring from DCS. Have you ever heard of the Windfall Elimination Provision? DeKalb School Watch has written about it many times (use the Search Box), most recently last week:
    Federal law (Windfall Elimination Provision) says that “if you work for an employer who does not withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, any pension you get based on that work may [read: “will”] reduce your Social Security benefits. The Windfall Elimination Provision primarily affects you if you earned a pension in any job where you did not pay Social Security taxes and you also worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security retirement or disability benefit” — or if you qualify for Social Security benefits based on a spouse’s earnings under Social Security.

    Because you likely will retire from DCS, which does not pay into Social Security, you will lose approximately 1/3 of your Social Security benefits. That can be a substantial hit to what you think you will have to live on when you retire.

    In addition to that, you have lost about 7 or 8 years of compound interest growth on the money that has not been contributed to your TSA (Tax-sheltered Annuity) account. And that doesn’t show any signs of ending anytime soon.

    Plus, you have lost years of contributions to Social Security for the whole time that you have worked for DCS while it has not been part of Social Security. That means your Social Security account is smaller than it could have been, so if you do qualify for Social Security, you will lose approximately 1/3 of already reduced benefits.

    No step increases for the past six or seven years. And, if you started with DCS at some point in the past seven or eight years, your first step increase would not have come until after your sixth year, anyhow. If DCS was still paying into TSA, you would not have received a contribution until you completed your third year, which means you would have gone without Social Security AND TSA for 3 years. Both accounts would be reduced.

    It adds up, doesn’t it?

    What DeKalb County Schools has done to its teachers — financially and emotionally — just to enable overpaid, under-talented friends-and-family to stay on the payroll, getting paid for doing nothing or for make-work “jobs,” — is SO WRONG on SO many levels. It’s the “gift that keeps on giving” and it will follow you right into retirement.

    Don’t believe us? Make an appointment to meet in person with a Social Security representative. For TRS, you can go online to estimate your benefits there.

    PS — We could count comments regarding the financial damage inflicted by DCS on its teachers on the fingers of one hand. It is puzzling to us. That apathy may explain, though, why there is no protest over this outright theft … why only two employees have brought suit against DCS for this outright theft. One person even said her Social Security was reduced by “only” $125 per month. Only? Using the simple magic of compound interest, if that $125 per month was invested at 2.5% interest over a 10 year period, that person would have $17,182. (Even stuffing it under your mattress for that time period would yield $15,000.) At 15 years, with the magic of compound interest, it would have grown to $27,447; at 20 years, $39,077. That’s real money, folks! DCS is not paying into your Tax-sheltered Annuity (TSA) account to enable them to maintain and grow the bloated Palace payroll.

  15. howdy1942 says:

    What would need to happen for the teachers to become a part of the Social Security System again? I have met the head of the teachers “union” and ask could this organization hold a vote by the teachers and, if the teachers vote to re-join Social Security, how could that vote get before the school board? Could a new board member call for that to be considered by the full board? The teachers ought to hold that vote as soon as possible and any such vote would, I’m certain attract the attention of the AJC and other media outlets. As one taxpayer, I would certainly support the teachers. If DCSS used just $20 million of that so-called “surplus” of $30.9 million, it could allocate $4,000 to each teacher in Dekalb County leaving $19.2 million in “surplus”. I can think of no better use for that money than to enhance the compensation and benefits of our teachers. If we did that, then perhaps we would not have such a retention and hiring problem every year.

    Once again, I am not an employee of Dekalb County in any capacity nor is any of my family nor have we ever been. I’m simply a taxpayer who wants to see our kids get the best education possible and for our people to be provided the services they need from people of integrity and trust.

  16. dsw2contributor says:

    ‘Same old same old’ said “Not everyone who reads this blog is a fan of outsourcing or the Jesters.”

    I did a few quick google searches of the five candidates running to replace Elaine Boyer and I concluded that Wendy Butler is the most qualified candidate.

  17. Howdy — Teachers do NOT have a union in Georgia — it is illegal. There are several voluntary associations for teachers. But, at best — because teachers unions and collective bargaining are against the law in Georgia — those voluntary associations are toothless tigers.

    Are you talking about the Organization of DeKalb Educators run by David Schutten? This organization does nothing to support teachers or to speak out against the treatment of teachers by DeKalb County Schools. Have you looked at the ODE website recently? ODE is as transparent as pig slop. Their most recent “article” is announcing a vote in March 2014; this is August 2014. To date, results of the vote have not been posted. Click on ODE’s calendar of meetings on the right-hand side of the page. It is for 2010. It appears that the same 67 people have “recommended” the out-of-date articles on the ODE website. If you were paying $243 per year to belong to ODE wouldn’t you expect the website to be up-to-date and elections to be transparent? Wouldn’t you expect ODE to speak out against the bloated and mostly useless Palace? Wouldn’t you expect the ODE to speak out about an insulting “raise” of 1%? Wouldn’t you expect ODE to support and assist with the lawsuit against DeKalb County Schools concerning the theft of Tax-sheltered Annuity payments that are due to teachers?

  18. Howdy — It’s a nice thought. You seem to be a nice person, genuinely concerned for our teachers and distressed by the declining quality of public education in DeKalb County. We understand where you are coming from. However, a $4,000 one-time payment to teachers, after taxes are taken out, does not even come close to making our teachers whole.

    Between losing the TSA contributions, receiving no raises, and the significant hit to Social Security (if they are even eligible) by the Windfall Elimination Provision when teachers retire — the only thing that will make teachers whole is to receive 100% of the promised, but undelivered, TSA contributions plus the compound interest that should have been earned during the time period that TSA contributions were stopped. Plus teachers should receive step increases comparable to other metro counties and retroactive to the first year that step increases were not received.

  19. Murphey says:

    I find it interesting that charter schools must pay for an annual audit that is a public document, and that findings in the audit can be used to terminate the charter.

    Charter schools also must achieve their academic performance goals, which are generally to exceed performance of the district, or they face termination of the charter.

    If only the regular public schools, and the district, were held to such high standards!

  20. @teachertaxpayer on 2014/09/14 at 6:22 PM: Thanks. We just had to address this. Sadly, the AJC and other “news” sources have taken to simply reprinting press releases sent to them, verbatim. This is not news. In fact, they even leave off the revealing info text: “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE”. When you know that this is not ‘news’ and is in fact PR spin, you just have to speak the truth. We try to do that to the best of our ability.

    As far as Stan Jester saving the day goes, don’t hold your breath. Nancy Jester and Pam Speaks consistently voted differently from the rest of the board and it made no difference. In fact, they were both swept away with the rest by the Governor. It takes a majority vote for anything to happen – and if school board members start questioning admin leadership or heaven forbid – the superintendent – too much they will have the full wrath of Mark Elgart and SACS on their backs.

  21. Just Wondering says:

    DSW2
    Thank you for caring about the TSA Lawsuit. This not only impacts all DeKalb employees now, but also the future. The employees were never given a chance to voice our opinions. We were never given any options. We were told that it was only going to be stopped until January of the next year. That was over four years ago, Some people must be clicking the down finger by error. I would hate to think that anyone would be against the employees expecting the DCSD to honor its word.

    (This is not related to the issue. I would love to know how much we spent on changing all things from DCSS to DCSD and the difference the name change was suppose to make)

    What happened to the money that was being put in the TSA?

    How much money was saved and where did it go?

    Why doesn’t someone with the school system discuss this with the staff?

    Every teacher, para educator and school administrator had to take a long survey last school year so that the DeKalb could work on getting the Wallace Grant,

    How about a survey to gather the concerns of the employees about the TSA contributions?

    If you know someone who has retired, check with them. Let them share with you the impact of not having the TSA Funded.

    I copied this from the Barnes Law Group. It is an update to the TSA lawsuit.

    September 2014 UPDATE…. Oral arguments will be heard before the Georgia Court of Appeals Court at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 located at 47 Trinity Place, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.

    http://www.barneslawgroup.com/DeKalbTeacherTSAPlan.aspx

    Due to illness I am not working today,

  22. Your recollection of the property tax thing is interesting. You might want to recheck your facts because, contrary to what sounds likely, DeKalb actually did NOT lower property values when the recession hit and, instead, the Tax Assessment Office continued to use prior year values for multiple years. Then, AFTER the recovery was started everywhere else, the laws had to be changed to require a tax assessment every year and also to put in safeguards against house flippers who were rigging the system and profiting from a various number of schemes that were out there at the time. In the last assessment, yes values did trend up, but I would hardly call it a “windfall” considering the amount that had been removed from our coffers by the Atkinson administration, more so than from the Lewis one. Amazing how one decent superintendent can make such a world of difference. Thank goodness Marshall Orson had some ideas for candidates when our school system was in such dire shape. Let’s hope he or someone on that board has started thinking of a decent replacement because one wrong hire and we’re back to square one.

  23. Are we on the same page? You are saying that Michael Thurmond is a decent superintendent? And you are basing that on … what? The $30 million he just pulled out of a hat? It is all just smoke and mirrors. We still have not seen a forensic audit for DCS nor does DCS use an online checkbook.

  24. No, more like I’m saying that it was very slim pickens at the time that Thurmond was suggested as a potential Interim Superintendent, but I’ve never allowed myself to put too much faith in him for the long term. What I am saying is I hope that this board understands what a significant task it is to find the right person and if they have not started that search, or instructed Thurmond to start making the calls himself, we could easily end up right back where we started. Don’t you agree?

  25. howdy1942 says:

    Thanks for providing the name “Organization of Dekalb Educators”. I realize that they are not a “union” because Georgia is a right-to-work State. Also, thanks for the information about that “vote” – I assume that the teachers are being asked to vote regarding Social Security.

    My concern is first and foremost for our teachers. Already, we have an unusually high teacher turnover rate and that has led to the very expensive process of recruiting, interviewing, selecting, and offering qualified candidates for the positions vacated. During my 40 years in business, I can think of nothing more challenging, time consuming, and costly as filling vacant positions. Excellent companies and organizations seek to maintain a stable qualified workforce because essential tasks must continue to be performed. In the case of Dekalb County schools, its recruiting efforts have been a disaster and our students and our communities are paying the price.

    @Murphey – you make a very good point!! Charter schools are audited annually and the results are made a critical part of their evaluation to maintain their respective charters. Given the DCSS’ track record regarding expenses, an outside, independent audit is certainly in order. I have very strong suspicions that the shape of its expense records is no better than those of the Dekalb County administration, if that good. The difference is that the U. S. Attorney’s office got involved in the County and I hope that it will also get involved in the DCSS’ expenses. In its report placing the DCSS on probation, SACS repeatedly cited a significant lack of financial controls and, without any doubt, that has led to substantial abuses (i.e. Crawford Lewis, et al)

    Relative to that $4,000, I am not talking about a one-time payment – I’m talking about restoring those TSA contributions as well as providing our teachers with a greater increase than 1%. My property taxes here in Tucker increased by 9.33%. I cannot even begin to imagine the taxes paid by those businesses in and around Perimeter Center, but I don’t think I would be very far off stating that at least 60% of the $1.2 billion budget of the DCSS is paid by those north of U.S. 78 and that would total about $720 million. After reviewing the property tax increase of our daughter who lives close to Decatur north of U.S. 78, I think that the average increase would conservatively be in the order of 10% and that would be an increase of at least $72 million for the DCSS. Now we can certainly afford to increase the compensation of our teachers each year by at least $4,000. If we could cut that teacher turnover rate by 50%, think of the expenses that would go away. If we are still paying that “governance training” law firm, then the school board should cut that expense in short order. I see no reason to “train” a member of the school board – if they choose to run and are elected, they should be given a job description or list of responsibilities, a very explicit code of conduct, and they should educate themselves. People, particularly at this level, should be expected to educate and develop themselves. They have libraries, the Internet, and a wide range of books available to them. And again, the question of just why Dekalb requires a staff/teacher ratio twice that of neighboring counties needs to be answered. I sincerely doubt that the administration needs of Dekalb County are twice those of Clayton, Gwinnett, or Fulton Counties.

    In short, Dekalb has the money to resolve many of the issues with our teachers, improve the morale in the classroom, and even begin to reduce the size of our classrooms. It just needs to get its priorities in order.

  26. bettyandveronica1 says:

    It may just be my old brain but didn’t we do the “we have a surplus dance” once before? These people are pretty inept and the public has a very short memory, wasn’t there a supposed surplus in splost last time? Something to do with electric bills and a construction project? Better take another look at the books! History is doomed to repeat itself.

  27. Stan Jester says:

    According to the FY15 budget, General Fund revenue has been going through the roof the last few years:
    FY2012: $755 million
    FY2013: $764 million
    FY2014: $785 million*
    FY2015: $802 million**

    *FY14 revenue is extrapolated from June 2014 actuals. **FY2015 is estimated in the budget. Note: FY14 local revenue was about $25 million more than anticipated. The school district also received $7.5 million in the Heery settlement which is considered revenue.

  28. Thanks Stan. We love numbers – they are so… factual!

    So $25 million extra in income plus over $7 million in a legal settlement >> and voila! A $31 million fund balance adjustment!!

    ALSO >> What about the bonus $34 million in ‘Race To The Top’ wealth redistribution education innovation money? Do we know what that was spent on? Were the feds pleased with DeKalb’s ‘innovative’ use of the money? Are we continuing to receive more?

    Here’s DeKalb’s report on the RTTT spending >> http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/news-and-info/race-to-the-top

    These are the 4 Core Education Reform Areas >>
    • Recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed the most.
    • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy.
    • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction.
    • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools

    How’d we do?

  29. @bettyandveronica — so true! We had a surplus and then it was gone! Well, first we were broke. Then Atkinson found money. Then it disappeared. And you’re right – we had a huge (at least $30 million) SPLOST surplus – boy there was some scrapping over that pile of dough! But in the end, alas – we were $41 million in the red in reality.

    https://dekalbschoolwatch.com/2012/02/29/we-hate-to-say-i-told-you-so-but/

    You are all right to be skeptical of this ‘we’re solvent’ – ‘no, we’re broke’ cycle. I guess it depends on if they are asking for money – or reporting to the state and SACS.

  30. REGARDING RTTT >>

    TEACHERS: CLICK HERE to please download and read through this very specific list of programs promised using RTTT funds. There are STEM programs funded, a video visual arts project at DSA, a science teachers conference, a Zoo Atlanta expert visiting teacher making presentations to 15,000 students per year, a five-year neuroscience education program, a program focused on teacher training and cancer research, teacher academies run by GA Tech for science teachers, and so much more! It all sounds wonderful — any reports?!! We’d love to hear how this list of programs has been going for our students and teachers.

  31. @Howdy & Murphey: The kind of audit charter schools – as well as DeKalb County School District as a whole – have to do every year is basically a transactional audit. It verifies that yes, you deposited the money you took in and yes, you wrote checks to the people you say you did. We are asking to go deeper. We are (and have for years) asked for a forensic and salary audit – one that shows salaries and compares them to other systems. One that shows where money goes and why. One that determines if there could be better ways to consolidate and spend the money we take in. One that shows inequities in spending across the system.

    The last (and only) one done was a salary audit only, conducted by Ernst & Young. It was completed in 2004, cost about $300,000 and showed that top tier administrators were overpaid by millions. In fact, our current board chair was a top level admin at the time and was estimated to be making about $10,000 a year more than comparable jobs in other systems. Word at the time was that there were people being paid for jobs with titles that did not describe their duties whatsoever. Dr. Brown, the superintendent who ordered the audit was fired. Dr. Lewis, a long-time admin was then appointed superintendent and promptly buried that audit, refusing to conduct another. Interim super Ramona Tyson released several boxes of documents after much pressure from members of the original DSW blog. She later promised to do another audit and even publicly stated a detailed timeline which would have been completed three years ago. However, to date, nothing has been done. The board continues to rely on the transactional audits conducted by the state for their fiscal stewardship. And Michael Thurmond has no interest in conducting a forensic audit whatsoever.

    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-much-have-non-teaching-salary.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/11/its-time-for-that-salary-audit.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/ramona-tysons-report-on-2004-ernst.html
    http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/back-to-topic-of-ernst-young-2004-audit.html

  32. overandout2 says:

    I am a teacher in DeKalb County working my 14th year with a Master’s Degree. In checking the funding provided by the state of Georgia for teachers, it came to my attention that the ONLY salary I am receiving is coming from the state. DeKalb County is not adding one penny to my compensation. I’m just wondering how they can hold a contract over my head when they have no investment in me. Everyone who teaches in DeKalb should check it out. Just pull up the 2014-2015 Teacher Salary Schedule and compare it to the State Salary Schedule. By the way, it’s obvious that DeKalb’s strategy is to funnel new teachers into the system – new teachers receive $31,586.00 from the state and $9,676.13 from DeKalb for a total salary of $41,262.13. So, if you have experience and an advanced degree, DeKalb could care less. Time to move on.

  33. Stan Jester says:

    Hello OverAndOut2
    I’m not sure I’m following you. The state salary schedule is the minimum wage teachers must be paid. Each school district may define a salary schedule equal to or above that. It doesn’t define where the funds come from that pay for teacher salaries. Roughly half of the general operating budget comes from state revenue and half from local revenue.

    It is noteworthy that in addition to the salary step freezes, the daily rate for many teachers has gone down. The earned annual income for teachers will go up this fiscal year because the school district is working them more, but the rates have gone down for many.

  34. dsw2contributor says:

    U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates has indicted former Dekalb County janitorial services manager Patrick Jackson on charges of mail fraud and bribery:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/former-dekalb-gwcc-janitor-manager-indicted-on-cor/nhNtj/

    “Jackson is charged with abusing his official positions with DeKalb County and the Georgia World Congress Center,” Yates said in an emailed statement. “According to the indictment, over a six-year period he accepted bribes in exchange for his helping a company attain and maintain exclusive government contracts.”

  35. dsw2contributor says:

    There are five candidates running for Dekalb County District 1 Commissioner. In alphabetical order:

    – Wendy Butler
    – Larry Danese
    – Nancy Jester
    – Tom Owens
    – Holmes E. Pyles

    (1) Wendy Butler
    Butler is on the State Road & Tollway Authority, per this Atlanta Business Chronicle article:
    http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2010/01/18/daily52.html
    She appears to actually know something about transportation, per this Crier article:
    http://www.thecrier.net/article_ed8eb741-0873-553a-a0a6-f5da23a452a1.html
    She is also on the MARTA Board, per this AJC article:
    http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/marta-names-new-board/nJRSw/
    And she was active in the Brookhaven cityhood movement, per several articles including this one that says she cohosted a meeting:
    http://patch.com/georgia/brookhaven/city-of-brookhaven-neighborhood-meetings

    (2) Larry Danese
    Larry Danese was a 2012 candidate for Brookhaven Mayor, per this interview in the Patch:
    http://patch.com/georgia/brookhaven/five-questions-with-larry-danese-candidate-for-mayor

    (3) Nancy Jester
    Nancy Jester describes herself as “a governance consultant for the Georgia Charter Schools Association and previously served on the DeKalb County Board of Education.” She blogs and writes editorials about education, such as this one in the Marietta Daily Journal:
    http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/23812613/article-Georgia-has-a-long-way-to-go–but-Common-Core-is-no-path-to-prosperity

    (4) Tom Owens
    Tom Owens’ only claim to fame seems to be being against a mosque:
    http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/dekalb-mosque-faces-mounting-violations/nHbwK/
    In a topix forum, Owens is described as a “RADICAL NUT!!!” by someone who goes out of their way to avoid him:
    http://www.topix.com/forum/city/doraville-ga/TOI1VFS6DQTODDT9J/p2

    (5) Holmes Pyles
    I wasn’t able to find any articles about him, just property and company records. He appears to be 86 years old. (If he is really 86, that could be an issue for a lot of voters. I remember when people thought Ronald Reagan, at age 73, was too old to run for reelection. Many of us remember Reagan’s line during a debate with Mondale: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”)

  36. True overandout2. The state sets the minimum pay scale and those revenues come from several sources. However, most districts actually choose to pay teachers more – for example, the City of Atlanta pays quite a lot more than DeKalb for the same job, and often with few students per class. DeKalb has plenty of revenue and could choose to reorder their spending priorities and choose to hire more teachers, lower class sizes and pay those teachers better – as well as work out a pension plan that is fair. However, they choose otherwise.

  37. Thanks for the info on the Commission candidates dswcontributor. Everyone needs to keep in mind that the county only manages about 35% of your property tax dollars – about 65% goes to the school system and is technically managed by the school board and the superintendent. And the oversight is a very different kind of job. Even though the job of a commissioner is often about zoning and building, parks, trash and safety, we hope that whomever wins the commission seat thinks about the schools when doing the work of the county. There are many places these entities could and do overlap: parks, summer camps, recreation programs, juvenile programs within the police and DA’s office, etc. We know Nancy from her time as a school board member and her continued focus on education issues, and are encouraged that she would be mindful of the schools if she would win the post.

    +++

    That said, you are correct — Wendy Butler’s credentials are quite impressive.

    Coleman Talley LLP attorney Wendy S. Butler has joined the State Road & Tollway Authority.

    Butler’s practice is focused on areas of land use, land planning, zoning, environmental, transportation, property rights and governmental law in transactional, litigation and regulatory matters at the local, regional and state level. Prior to joining Coleman Talley, she worked for Sidley & Austin in Chicago and Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta.

    Butler serves on the board of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors, U.S. Congressman Tom Price’s Advisory Roundtable and as the District One appointee to the DeKalb County Board of Zoning Appeals.

    +++

    Larry Danese is a formidable candidate as well:

    Danese: I have a 15 year history of service to the community, serving on numerous boards and committees. I have worked with county and city governments on watershed management, planning and zoning, code enforcement, and with state officials on transportation issues and animal related legislation.

    I hold MBA and engineering degrees, I am a retired registered engineer, and a business owner. I have managed very large projects for a Florida public utility and large transportation projects for the federal government. I have the experience and skills necessary to make our [county] work.

    +++

    It could be a close call. Especially with so many candidates. There will likely be a runoff.

  38. Northlake Mom says:

    Although I am not familiar with the DeKalb Commission candidates, I did discover something interesting and potentially troubling: Elaine Boyer is the one who appointed Wendy Butler to the MARTA Board. In any event, I agree that it is important that our new commissioner consider the schools when making development and zoning decisions. When developers sought approval to rezone commercial property in order to build two huge new apartment complexes on Northlake Parkway, Elaine Boyer and the other commissioners were completely dismissive of school representatives who were concerned about the additional burden these complexes could impose on the local elementary school. The developers claimed these would be “luxury condos” for young professionals without children. The commissioners didn’t care about the impact on the schools, just the prospect of additional tax money. No surprise, soon afterward both of these “luxury condos” were full of school-age children who have contributed to the overcrowded status of the local elementary, middle and high schools. Now another housing complex is being built in the old Siemens space in the same Northlake area, despite the fact that the middle and high schools serving that location are both seriously overcrowded. It used to be that developers were required to pay “impact fees” to address the need for new schools and infrastructure that their development created– do those still exist? Are they waived? And if they are waived, why? How does this benefit our community? It’s not like an apartment complex is a big job creator that would benefit the area. I’m at a loss to understand what our commissioners are thinking when they approve things like this.

  39. Sorry there is nothing to make ms. Butler qualified other than kissing and donating to Deal and Jacobs to get put on the transportation and Marta. She is a lawyer, not a civil engineer so she does not know anything about highway construction or transportation, nor the construction and finance of these projects.

    We all know the Nancy our Mom with a calculator is is no ones camp and will look through everything with her calculator. She will find the missing dollars. having a law degree does not prepare you to find missing dollars, or know how dollars are hidden in Contruction contracts or other contracts.

  40. Dekalb Inside Out says:

    Wendy Butler has strong ties to Elaine Boyer and a history of screwing over neighborhoods. I remember when Butler was on the DeKalb Planning Commission and really upset the Druid Hill neighborhood a few years ago … Druid Hills riled over planned subdivision.

    The board agreed to allow a well-known attorney to carve up three neighborhood properties into a seven-lot subdivision off Clifton Road, complete with a new side street.

    “It would in effect make Druid Hills like a typical Gwinnett cul-de-sac area,” said MacGregor, president of the 4,000-household civic association. “That affects the historic character of our community.”

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