The Dekalb County school system is facing a budget shortfall of $73 million next year. To shore up the gap, Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has proposed increasing the student-teacher ratio and boosting property taxes.
The deficit is largely due to declining property tax revenues. But Dekalb Schools’ spokesman Walter Woods says it’s also the result of increased health care costs and more than $40 million in under-budgeted funds.
“This is hard, fixed costs like fuel and equipment, utilities, things we have to pay every year. Those costs keep going up,” says Woods.
Atkinson’s plan would cut positions from the central office and raise property taxes by 2 mills. It would also boost class size by as many as three students, but Woods says that’s a last resort.
“We hope that we can alleviate that somehow through the tax digest or other means and cutting central office. So, we want to alleviate that as much as possible, but we do face very hard choices in terms of our budget deficit,” continues Woods.
The district will hold public hearings on the budget starting next week. The board will cast its final vote in June.