There is no doubt that the hundreds of people who signed an online petition to save the Fernbank Science Center played a strong part of the system’s decision to not close the center, for now. But during Wednesday night’s public hearing DeKalb County School’s board members did get an ear full from parents and employees not happy with latest budget shortfall solutions. While the $4.6 million operating budget for the Fernbank Center remains, the board is considering eliminating more positions, raising property taxes and adding teacher furlough days.
Some people speaking out at the public hearing say they would rather see the Fernbank Science Center close before jobs are lost or higher property taxes paid. The Tentative Budget now includes: eliminating 140 central office positions, increasing property taxes by 1 mil, increasing classroom size by one student, adding two more teacher furlough days, and decreasing employee healthcare benefits.
Among the layoffs under consideration include Teacher’s Aids and School Resource Officers (SRO). Office William Davidson of Stone Mountain High School says reducing Resource Officers is a move that will put students in danger. He told the board, “Right now, we’re just working with bare minimum of enough officers. With all due respect, I don’t think it’s the wisest idea to get rid of 10 resource officers.”
The issue of a property tax increase is unpopular with both some board members and some DeKalb citizens. The board is looking at collect about $30 Million with a 1 mil increase that would result in a cost of about $80 a year extra per a $200,000 home. Board members like Donald McChesney of District 2, says many residents simply cannot afford a property tax increase and that’s why he will not support it.
DeKalb County School’s $73 million budget shortage is being called this year’s largest budget shortfall in the state of Georgia. Feeding into the system’s problem is the fact that it started the school year with no reserve funds. As members hash out the final details of what will actually end up on the chopping block, the community has another chance to weigh in on the issue with another public hearing scheduled for Monday June 4th. The board is planning to approve the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget on June 11th.