Increased taxes lead to surplus for DeKalb County schools

by: Erica Byfield Updated:


DECATUR, Ga. - A local school district that raised taxes to get more of your money now has a surprise multimillion dollar surplus.

Prior to this week, DeKalb County School leaders said the district had a $14 million deficit; now they said the school system should have a $27 million surplus by the 2014 school year.

Channel 2 Action News sent reporter Erica Byfield to get some answers.

DeKalb County School's new superintendent, Michael Thurmond, told Byfield he discovered the district had missed out on millions in federal grants for the last few years, if not decades.

"This is not new. It's not magic. You can't find something that is already in plain view," Thurmond said.

He went line by line from the budget with Byfield.

"People say this was a miraculous find, there wasn't anything miraculous about it, it just basic, add subtract, it's mathematics," Thurmond said.

Thurmond added he made the revelation of the district's failure to collect federal grant money after he reached out to metro school finance experts.

In 2012, DeKalb Schools increased the mileage rate. A taxpayer who had to pay a higher tax bill last year said the surplus news is upsetting. She also praised Thurmond's discovery.

"DeKalb is too big to be going through the problems that we are going through," Cee Cee Johnson said.

Thurmond told Byfield he also plans to cut $18 million out of 2014 budget.

He will make the cuts by slashing $6 million in legal expenses, $5 million in unstaffed positions at the district office and an additional $7 million at district office for items like supplies.

"I don't have a magic wand and this is not going to happen overnight but the journey of 100 miles began with a single step and this is one step in the right direction," he said.

Thurmond ended the conversation by talking about the district's savings. Currently DeKalb Schools only have $100,000 in reserves.

Thurmond says that must change and it's hope to add $13 million from the surplus to the district's savings account.

The figures for the 2014 school year are based on anticipated revenues.

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