THE CHALLENGE >>
After years of unrest, corruption and disappointment, and with momentum gaining for cityhood efforts across the county, it was DeKalb schools superintendent Michael Thurmond who first threw down the official gauntlet – in the form of a Powerpoint at the December 8 board meeting. Created by the Superintendent’s Office, Division of Finance, Division of Operations, Division of Curriculum & Instruction, and Division of School Leadership & Operational Support — the report proclaims the annexation of Druid Hills into the City of Atlanta would cause serious harm to nearly 3,000 children as well as elderly residents.
They then released the following press release >>
Study finds 2,922 students will be disenfranchised and displaced, taxes on senior citizens will increase significantly and Fernbank Science Center will be lost to all DeKalb students
Today, Superintendent Michael Thurmond issued a report on the impacts of the proposed annexation of the Druid Hills neighborhood into the City of Atlanta. The proposed Druid Hills annexation plan is supported by “Together in Atlanta,” a local group of residents advocating for annexation.
The proposed Druid Hills annexation plan would result in significantly higher taxes, disenfranchisement and displacement of 2,922 students, and districtwide loss of instructional opportunities, athletic programs, instructional staff, and funding potential.
“Innocent students will suffer under this proposed annexation plan,” said Mr. Thurmond. “With this proposal, the focus and priority for public education will be on the wants of adults and not the needs of children.”
Highlights of the annexation’s impact on the DCSD include:
- Property taxes for senior citizens over the age of 70 years with incomes of less than $82,000 will see their property taxes increased by $4,000, or more than 200 percent.
- All other property tax payers will experience increases in taxes by the City of Atlanta.
- A total of 2,922 students in the District will be disenfranchised and displaced by the annexation with the largest impact being 1,075 students at Druid Hills High School.
- Similar impacts will be seen at Druid Hills Middle School, Fernbank Elementary School, Briar Vista Elementary School, Laurel Heights School, and the International Center.
- 1,626 students and parents in 37 schools will no longer have access to DeKalb school choice options.
- 100,000 students will no longer have access to the Fernbank Science Center resulting in the loss of a STEM Training Center. (DeKalb County has four of the 11 statewide STEM certified schools with 48 schools working on certification.)
- The old Briarcliff High School, a long-term fixed asset for the DCSD with a potential value of $50 million, could be forced from the District.
- One of five District stadiums that serve 18 high schools and 18 middle schools will be lost resulting in a possible loss or reduction of junior varsity soccer and lacrosse.
THE RESPONSE >>
After attempting to schedule a face to face meeting with Michael Thurmond and their request being denied, the group Together In Atlanta [TIA] released a response to the statements made by Thurmond.
The TIA letter, in an attempt to correct misinformation, states the following key responses in part >>
- [T]he presentation took liberty with senior exemptions, comparing Atlanta and DeKalb without acknowledging DeKalb does not apply senior exemptions until age 70, while Atlanta applies exemptions at age 65, amounting to five additional years of payment before receiving any senior exemption.
- APS has a millage of 21.74 while DeKalb charges 23.98 mills. For most homeowners, Atlanta is a less expensive provider of education services than DeKalb.
- The Superintendent brings the impact of HOST into the discussion perhaps to skirt the comparison of direct educational costs. HOST has never and will never be applied to school taxes. For countywide services the HOST discount will continue for any areas annexed into Atlanta. In fact, the likelihood that HOST will remain as it is currently configured is doubtful.
- That the DeKalb Superintendent chose to delve into areas of fire, police, garbage, water and sewer, which are outside the purview, authority, and expertise of the school system is unfortunate, particularly in light of the many pressing and germane issues facing the DeKalb school system. CLICK HERE to read more about the tax implications of the annexation.
- We believe those with an interest in preserving their elementary school attendance zones should get an opportunity to vote on that interest. We are excited about the success of Atlanta, its trajectory going forward, and its responsiveness in this process.
- The attendance zones for Fernbank and Briar Vista elementary schools, the core of communities, was bisected and affected by many [city] legislative proposals. The result would break communities with decades of cohesion. Together In Atlanta sought a plan that would maintain the community, while not affecting the rights of self-determination or cohesion of other elementary school zones. The result is a map that follows exactly the longstanding DCSD zone boundaries for Fernbank and Briar Vista elementary schools.
- When the LaVista Hills map was recently published, TIA reached out proactively to its organizers to resolve conflicts – including suggesting that the Adams Stadium/former Briarcliff High School/International Center complex be included in the LaVista Hills map, not the Atlanta map. This resolution would preserve those facilities for DCSD students. No families live on that property and therefore the integrity of the Briar Vista community would not be harmed by this resolution maintaining TIA’s principle for keeping the elementary schools together.
- LaVista Hills gains strength and viability with commercial and educational assets. We expect to have similar conversations with Decatur representatives. We believe there are solutions that meet each party’s needs around the edges of all our maps. Had the Superintendent contacted TIA or others involved in these discussions, he would have been aware that TIA’s has clearly and specifically proposed to exclude the Adams Stadium/former Briarcliff High School/International Center complex.
CLICK HERE to read the entire response from Together In Atlanta.
>>> Stay tuned, it looks like we may be in for a rough [and expensive] ride. So much for Thurmond being able to keep the legal costs down!