DeKalb Schools fire back at legislation cutting its funding by $56 million: ‘Politics over pupils.’

State Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, proposed a bill today that is a prod at DeKalb Schools.

And not a friendly one.

To the dismay of many county elected officials, the DeKalb County School District has not agreed to financially assist the redevelopment of the former General Motors factory in Doraville, a project predicted to produce thousands of new jobs in the region,

DeKalb County's education leader, Superintendent Steve Green, is lobbying against a tax allocation district that would provide tax money for redevelopment of the site of the former GM plant in Doraville. The school district must give its approval before the TAD could be approved. courtesy of City of Doraville

DeKalb County’s education leader, Superintendent Steve Green, is not in favor of the district committing to a tax allocation district that would provide tax money for redevelopment of the site of the former GM plant in Doraville. The school district must give its approval before the TAD could be approved. (Photo courtesy of City of Doraville)

Doraville and DeKalb County officials say approval by the city, county and the school district is vital to secure $247 million in infrastructure bonds. But the school district has thus far declined to commit.

As the AJC reported: The DeKalb school district, which would need to provide more than half of the project’s public funding, also may be reluctant. DeKalb schools have never participated in tax allocation districts, which have been used for other developments in the metro area including Atlantic Station and the Beltline, though the latter has been at the center of a dispute because of missed payments to Atlanta Public Schools.

Pressure on the school district is coming from all directions.  In a meeting with DeKalb lawmakers a week ago, state economic development chief Chris Carr said, “We have an opportunity in our county to have the best site in metro Atlanta — probably one of the best sites in the Southeast — and we’re on the verge of blowing it.”

Now, Taylor is apparently adding to the pressure on the school district.

As the AJC’s Mark Niesse reports:

A proposal to cut DeKalb County school system funding by about $56 million a year was introduced Thursday in the Georgia General Assembly. Rep. Tom Taylor said his legislation, House Bill 969, would reduce DeKalb school property tax revenue to the maximum allowed in most other county school systems in Georgia.

The legislation only applies to DeKalb, which has a tax rate for schools of 23.73 mills. The measure wouldn’t affect city school systems like Atlanta Public Schools, which charges a 21.64 mill property tax rate rate.

The bill’s language calls for the state to reduce its share of education funding by the amount a county school system exceeds a 20 mill tax rate. The legislation doesn’t reduce the property tax rate that DeKalb residents and businesses pay.

So, Taylor wants to cut $56 million from DeKalb schools without returning a single penny to DeKalb taxpayers? Clearly, this is a symbolic gesture designed to deliver a message to DeKalb Schools.

Taylor did not return my phone call Thursday afternoon asking for the rationale behind his bill, but DeKalb Superintendent Steve Green sent me this statement at 10:30 Thursday night:

The DeKalb County School District is at a critical juncture in recovery.  We are rebuilding our financial foundation to serve 102,000 students.  We need the resources to address classroom needs, teacher pay, and support services.  The Board of Education is working in collaboration with the Superintendent with a primary focus on the needs of  students and teachers.

We have been able to give all teachers significant pay raises for the first time in several years; other non-certified staff need salary adjustments. In other words, we are on the road to recovery and reclaiming our rightful place as an exemplar school system including earning full accreditation on Jan. 28, 2016.

To remove critical resources at this juncture would be disruptive and detrimental to the health and well-being of the District and its efforts to improve teaching and learning.

Here is what $56 million means to DeKalb County:

  • Three pay raises for all teachers (They are now on par with other school systems in the metro area.), or
  • Three new 900-student school houses like the ones at Peachcrest ES and Fernbank ES (Our average age for school buildings is more than 20 years.), or
  • 712 new school buses (Our average fleet age is more than 10 years.)

If you support paying less for teachers, not improving the quality of our schools, or don’t care for the safe transportation of our of our 102,000 students then the proposal to reduce the tax rate is a good idea.  This legislation is a threat to the financial stability of the system and a threat to our students well-being in the classroom  Let’s not put politics over pupils.”

Reader Comments 0

62 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Never thought I'd say this, but I agree with Dekalb schools on this one.  

I do not agree with using tax incentives in this manner.  I always felt that business ventures such as this should stand on their own merits.  If they require millions in tax incentives to pencil out, then it is a weak project to begin with.

Ironically, General Motors was paying a full load tax base on it's Doraville plant while Kia, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, VW, and Mercedes were all building new facilities subsidized by tax dollars.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Taylor is just another kid-hater. The amazing thing is that parents of kids in the public schools voted for him. And what have you learned from that, parents? 

Deborah Abernathy-Smith
Deborah Abernathy-Smith

Politicians, stop robbing the tax payers and giving corporations welfare. They want to build, then let them pay for the space, taxes, and all fees associated to wanting to do business in Dekalb. So taking away futures from school students, invest in the education of our children. Why are the rich taking from the city of Dekalb. Your kids get their future. Where are the priorties. Then put those kids in private schools, robbing the poor for the rich. Maybe your children should attend Dekalb School System for a month, and give you feedback, maybe you would change your minds.

Starik
Starik

The DeKalb schools are basically a sports-oriented, education ends with scraping through high school model.  Not for college bound kids.

Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis

Just smart enough to follow orders but inept at critical thinking...

Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis

Look at the privatize prison system in this "land of the free"....

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Public schools must never become privatized. Education must continue to serve the common good for all of Georgia's young. Education is not in the profit business, using students and teachers as pawns for personal profit - not in this Democratic-Republic, which our Founding Fathers had constructed for Americans.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I suspect that this story is based on purely self-serving politics, the kind that makes its point with power and money, to wit:  "I'll show you who is in control."  That was the kind of mindset that drove me to New York City from South Georgia for 7 years when I was an idealistic 20 year old who believed in egalitarianism, as I still do, a half-century later.

Wrecker
Wrecker

The idea that every dollar you own is the property of the government and that a tax break is "giving" business money is the most progressive idea of all.  When did all DeKalb County residents/businesses become the wage slaves of the government, subject to the government's whim on whether to confiscate your earnings?  That said, favoring one business over another or over individual residents is clearly crony capitalism.  This is yet another argument in favor of a national retail sales tax such as the Fair Tax.  We need to take the bias and ability to manipulate outcomes out of our method of funding government.

James Edward Wilson
James Edward Wilson

.....and make it unaffordable for everyone? Every time we've tried to privatize crucial government programs, it's been an utter failure. Education will be no different.

Christin Calloway
Christin Calloway

They want the populous to remain incompetent so they have people to believe the lies and vote for them in 20yrs

Matt Woodard
Matt Woodard

Why continue throwing hard earned tax money down a failing educational drain? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Time for a change; this is step one. Privatization is what Dekalb needs to start moving in the right direction.

Starik
Starik

Doraville is mostly white and Hispanic, not the demographics that have influence in the DeKalb system. Maybe if they promise to do away with their I-285 speed trap they'll merit some support.

Jeff Davis
Jeff Davis

Starve their funding then privatize for failure...transfer public funds into private hands with no over-sight and no responsibility....#republicans....

class80olddog
class80olddog

Funny how they call it "corporate welfare" when they are talking about money they don't have now but might have in the future but business won't have to pay for a certain period of time.  As opposed to "real" welfare, where they take your and my hard-earned tax money and give actual money to people who may or may not deserve it. As far as I know, there have been no checks cut to companies.

class80olddog
class80olddog

DeKalb county school system should just scuttle this deal; they don't need those thousands of jobs, anyway.  They certainly don't need the low-income affordable housing that would go with this project.  The current abandoned area is just fine; it looks great.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog I see you are a liberal at heart.  Use the taxpayer's money to subsidize favored corporate interests.  And not just any taxpayer money-school money.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

@class80olddog What "low-income housing" are you referring to? That space is going to be mostly premium priced-housing. But yeah, I'd much rather see the site developed and adding residents to the area, who will pay taxes. And the Schools don't lose anything by participating in this TAD, unlike the screwy Beltline deal with the PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) which got the APS and City of Atlanta in a pissing match.

eulb
eulb

Schools are schools -- they are supposed to be 100% about education, not real estate, not job creation, not any of that other stuff.  TADs are essentially real estate development projects in financially risky locations. School systems should stay out of that!  APS already proved that very, very well.  

If the school system will focus on their real mission -- educating students --  and do that job very well, they will be doing their part in to uplift the community.  People will want to move into Dekalb public school district instead of fleeing.  Real estate values will rise and risk will fall.  Institutional lenders will fund development projects the normal way.   


class80olddog
class80olddog

All of the politics aside, DeKalb county does NOT need any more money to waste on their Central office and their legal bills.  Money is not going to solve their issues. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

I don't know whether this redevelopment plan is a good one or not.  But here is the way these things usually work:  Mercedes wants to build a new car factory, so they look at sites in several different states, and they ask the areas what tax incentives they will give the company.  If an area is not willing to work with them, they usually go to another state.  So if DeKalb county refuses to give them tax incentives , they MIGHT decide not to do anything there, which will leave DeKalb out in the cold anyway on taxes.  Of course, DeKalb can play hardball and ASSume that they will do this project even if they give them no tax incentives; if so, go ahead and gamble on it.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog They own the land.  They lose money if they let it sit.  This is simply a real estate development.

Starik
Starik

@xxxzzz @class80olddog Tax incentives are corporate welfare. The rich get richer, and the local government either raises taxes to compensate or cuts salaries and services.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog @Starik @xxxzzz Its pretty hard for them to pick up 165 acres from Doraville and move it to Alabama.  And high density transit oriented developments don't work well in Montgomery.

Don7953
Don7953

Plenty still needs to be reformed in the DeKalb School System — but Mr. Taylor's bill does nothing to fix that. This is nothing but corporate welfare in the Republican area of DeKalb. Maybe if this was for a new auto plant with thousands of good jobs — but it's not; it would subsidize yet more retail/residential development. Sen. Millar opposed these kinds of tax breaks for Sembler Brookhaven a few years ago. What's changed?

bu22
bu22

@Don Broussard Doraville is pretty Democratic.  And the Dem reps are putting a lot of pressure on the school board as well.  Nothing has changed.  Its same fleece the taxpayers as has been going on in DeKalb for a long time.  But this time they want to fleece the students also.

bu22
bu22

@Don Broussard Everyone in DeKalb should write the school board and encourage them to oppose the tax break.  And write your representatives, especially Taylor, and tell them to quit fleecing taxpayers for a favored developer.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

@Don Broussard God knows we don't need another strip mall! But some good housing options on this site, combined with related retail (grocery, for example) would make a lot of sense. 

pmaner
pmaner

I wrote about this on our campaign www.Facebook.com/teammaner page a couple of weeks ago. It's shameful Rep. Taylor, and Sen. Millar want to hold DeKalb school children hostage with this proposal.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Superintendent Green was wise to reject DeKalb's proposal.  Look what happened to the APS school system when they went along with Mayor Reed's similar proposal: Mayor Reed did not honor his agreement because he wanted to spend the money he owed APS on his Beltline project. DeKalb's Doraville project is speculative. But we know that DeKalb's schools need the money.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog @OriginalProf We do know the developer doesn't need the money.  Money is not the answer for getting it done, just for making it more profitable.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf No we do NOT know that DeKalb needs the money.  I would bet you could double the amount of money given to DeKalb and student outcomes would barely budge.  MONEY is not the answer

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Schools are about developing students, not property.  Taxpayers quite rightly don't want their money going to possible boondoggles. I think the legislators are counting on more wealthy people saying,"Hey, the DCSS already wastes money.  Might as well waste it on land instead of "those children."

class80olddog
class80olddog

DeKalb County is being disingenuous with their arguments.  They claim that they need the extra money from the taxes (which they don't get now) from rehabbing the Doraville GM plant to support "students".  However, their track record is NOT to spend money in the classroom - rather to support "friends and family" jobs in the Central Office, along with spending monstrous amounts on legal bills.  Like almost all Georgia school systems, "it is all about the Benjamins".  None of them truly care about the students.  If they did, they would address issues with discipline, attendance, and social promotion.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog So your conservative position is to give the money to developers instead?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@xxxzzz @class80olddog As I understand it, there is no MONEY given to developers - only tax breaks - there is no actual cash sent from schools to businesses.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog @xxxzzz Do you not grasp that there is really no difference?  The developer doesn't pay taxes he otherwise would have while the rest of us do.  I cannot fathom how you with your philosophy can support this.

FredinDeKalb
FredinDeKalb

@class80olddog 

For someone that did not live in DeKalb, you frequently reference the Central Office size along with *friends and family*.I know you got this from a blog that is no longer active.In the beginning, this blog did point out issues that needed attention however towards the end, it *jumped the shark* and began to share *out of context* information as though it was the truth.I hope after providing correct information, you will cease using those references regarding DeKalb County Schools.



The Central office grew under the Dr. Robert Freeman, who was the superintendent from 1978 to 1996.He subdivided the district into areas and promoted several school house employees to serve on instructional teams.When he realized this did not accomplish what he had hope, he along with the following superintendent, Dr. Hallford, did not return the employees back to the school house.Dr. Brown followed Dr. Hallford and attempted to *rightsize* the Central office.You can say there was a mini *coup* involving employees and citizens that did not want to see this happen, that ultimately resulted in a mutual separation.



Dr. Freeman also encouraged what is now known as *friends and family* though that other blog tried to say in occurred with superintendents after Hallford.It was used as a *code word* by that blog but the reality is that this has always exited in DeKalb and the South under a different name, the *good ole boys network*.Unfortunately the major media picked up on that term also, not knowing the origin and despite others like me pointing out what that blog was inferring.It took an interview with Dr. Freeman a few years ago to acknowledge that he introduced this but the inference behind this remained.



I along with many in the community believe that Dr. Freeman was a *great* superintendent.He believed his recommendation in creating the instructional teams would ultimately help with student learning.He also believed employees would recommend good acquaintances they knew, be they family or friends.This similar to a strategy used in the business world that can save on referral fees.It was also something that Jim Cherry had done with much success.It is done in every school system in this country.You would probably be surprised to learn of the many connections, especially in smaller school systems.Would you provide a reference for someone you didn’t think could do the job?



I hope sharing this history causes you to reconsider your comments on the DeKalb Schools Central office and use of *friends and family*.For many it won’t because they believe they can get a *rise* out of others in making those comments.




mar1049
mar1049

So basically you want to strong arm the school system for taxes to build a development that has nothing to do with educating the county students. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mar1049 As I understand these tax breaks, there is no money "given" by the school system.  All it does is NOT give them more taxes from the new businesses.  However, if new, better paid employees move into the county, they will reap more and higher property taxes.  Of course, I would not live in DeKalb County, because the schools are so bad...

bu22
bu22

@mar1049 Exactly.  Taylor should be brought up for an ethics violation.  This is about lining the developers pockets.  They will do this with or without the tax break.  It will just take longer and be a little less profitable.

bu22
bu22

@class80olddog @mar1049 The developers get exempted from taxes on what they build.  So over time, the schools are giving the developers money.  The only restriction is that those taxes are used for things the developer would otherwise have to pay for.

Mandella88
Mandella88

@class80olddog @mar1049

Hmmmm - You don't live in DeKalb but you have nothing better to do than stalk the Get Schooled blog and comment on DeKalb schools?


Classic trolling.....