November 29, 2021

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

DeKalb schools expects multimillion budget surplus, despite pandemic

The board passed a $1.15 billion budget last July, a month after state lawmakers reduced the district’s revenues by $54.2 million.

Last June, the district was also hit by a $117 million settlement. The district agreed to a five-year payment plan to cover retirement contributions for a plan that was halted in 2009 without proper notice.

School districts budget using audited financial information from the previous fiscal year. But state auditors found issues in the district’s bookkeeping. DeKalb’s audits from fiscal years 2018 and 2019 weren’t available until last October.

Expenses increased in some areas, but a district spokeswoman said the system may have seen slight reductions in travel, substitute staff, materials, and supply costs due to the pandemic.

ExploreCOVID-19 cases reported at metro Atlanta public schools

School board member Joyce Morley asked Burbridge at the district’s Jan. 11 meeting to make the district’s financial information more understandable for residents.

“It looks like we’re saving one way and cutting another way,” Morley said. “It’s all convoluted and confusing in many cases.”

Burbridge said DeKalb County tax department anticipates the district could lose $24 million in revenue. Due to COVID-19, he said, some residents failed to pay taxes. The estimated value of some of DeKalb’s real estate has also declined.

“We’ve collected $701 million, or approximately 62% of our budget revenue,” he said. “This leaves 38% of our revenue remaining to be collected … we really don’t expect to hit that number.”

Burbridge said the school district is still in a “pretty good situation.”

DeKalb board chair Vickie Turner said they anticipated a negative impact on revenue due to the pandemic.

She also said DeKalb is using federal COVID-19 relief funds, and she hopes President Joe Biden’s proposed stimulus plan, which depends on congressional approval, will provide more support.

The district has more than $6.5 million set aside for unforeseen emergencies, but officials said they haven’t found a need to use those funds yet.

“We peeled back the layers and looked at what we could live without,” Turner said. “That’s being fiscally responsible.”

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