By Mike Jacobs (via Mike’s email newsletter)
The DeKalb County School District recently announced that it is running a $30.9 million surplus. This represents an impressive improvement of $52.3 million over the $21.4 million deficit that faced the school district in February 2013.
February 2013 was the same month that Governor Nathan Deal removed six members of the DeKalb County Board of Education after the board had brought our school system to the brink of accreditation loss. In replacing these six members, Governor Deal appointed six highly qualified and professional citizens who promptly rolled up their sleeves and righted the ship.
Governor Deal led when DeKalb needed him. He took necessary steps in a moment of real crisis. His swift action vastly improved the trajectory of our school system. Now our schools’ accreditation is heading in the right direction. Accreditation loss no longer is a threat.
The district’s red ink has been reversed and has become a substantial surplus. The school system has eliminated furlough days and implemented teacher and staff pay raises. This is a direct result of the improved governance Governor Deal installed on our school board. It also is a result of the $930 million increase in education funding delivered in Governor Deal’s four state budgets.
The press conference in which Governor Deal announced the removal of the school board is the most vivid memory of my ten years in the State House. I was among a bipartisan group of seven DeKalb legislators who stood with Governor Deal that day as he announced his decision.
This bipartisan group did not include Senator Jason Carter, who attended the press conference, stood far behind the cameras, and did not support the decision that was being announced.
On a related note, Senator Carter voted in favor of three of Governor Deal’s four budgets. The budget he voted against – this year’s budget – contained the largest increase in education funding in seven years: $547 million. DeKalb is benefiting from that funding as part of its surplus.
As the father of two children in DeKalb public schools, I appreciate everything Governor Deal has done to improve the governance and financial condition of our school system. We can trust him to put aside partisan politics and make decisions with the best interests of our kids at heart.
DSW2 Observations: Keep in mind, at the time the Governor replaced the 6 board members, we were in financial crisis – the Great Recession had decimated property values in DeKalb. The former board raised the millage rate on property taxes in an attempt to compensate. The new board left that millage rate in place after values recovered (especially in north and central DeKalb). This has resulted in a virtual windfall in property tax collection, increasing the school board’s total local property tax collection by over 6%. With an operating budget in the general area of $800 million, 6.5% (the actual projected tax increase) equates to an increase in collection of approximately $52 million – exactly what the current board is being credited for ‘saving’.