DeKalb schools vote to raise taxes, cut 477 jobs

by: Tony Thomas Updated:

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The DeKalb County School Board has increased taxes and decided to slash hundreds of jobs to make up for a projected $85 million budget shortfall.

School Board members voted Thursday night to increase property taxes my one millage point. That means the tax bill for the owner of a $200,000 home will go up by $80 a year.

The vote passed 5 votes to 4.

“With 58 percent of homes in DeKalb County underwater, the last thing we need is a millage increase," argued School Board member Paul Womack before voting against the idea.

DeKalb Schools had a projected $85 million shortfall for the 2013 fiscal budget and no money in reserve to help make up the difference.

Also under the new plan -- class sizes could increase by two students districtwide, including in special-education settings. The district is cutting 477 positions in both the central office and in schools.

Among those positions are 200 teacher's aides and paraprofessionals along with 10 school resource officers.

Many people who attended the meeting left unhappy, but some conceded it could have been worse.

"The good thing about all this negativity is that a sleeping giant has been awakened. We now, as parents, are going to be very active in our school board," said parent Tanya Graham.

Many teachers feel the budget shortcomings are being balanced on them.

Two more noninstructional furlough days have been added for all district staff, bringing number of furlough days for 2013 to six.

Employees will also have to pay more for their health insurance. A school spokesperson said no teachers will be laid off, but few new teachers will be hired for next year.

"A furlough day for me is like $270 a day, so the $270 a day is very painful compared to a little more in taxes," said special education teacher Trina Knox.

The budget plan leaves the district with about $8 million in reserves for next year.