DeKalb Board of Education approves FY 22 budget

DeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse

DeKalb County, GA — After deferring the vote at the July 12 meeting, the DeKalb Board of Education approved the district’s $2 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022.

The delay meant teachers started the school year not knowing exactly what their salaries would be.

The district has adopted a zero based budget approach in which all expenses must be justified and approved for each new period.

“A lot of work has gone into preparing a new way of life for us, a zero based budget. This staff  has put in a lot of labor, time and energy, and this board has worked long and hard to make good fiscal decisions,” said Board Chair Vickie Turner, adding, “I think we’re ready to right this ship, if you will.”

“I’d like to thank the board for allowing us to introduce zero based budgeting,” said Superintendent Cheryl Watson‐Harris. “It has been a long process, but I think we’ve learned so much about ourselves and how we operate as an organization, and I know that from this experience we will be better all around. We acknowledge that we are not where we need to be, but we are moving in the right direction.”

Two Board members voted in opposition to the budget, both stating criticisms of the transparency of the budgeting process. District 7 Board member Dr. Joyce Morley stated that she had not received information in a timely way and also felt she had been excluded in some instances. District 1 Board member Anna Hill said that she had had questions about the budget that were not answered until just before the August 9 meeting, and some inconsistencies were still not resolved.

Public comment also included questions about the budget and financial transparency.

Both Kirk Lunde and Nancy Kelly pointed out that the athletics department asked for an increase in their budget to cover money that had already been spent. Kelly asked why the FY 19 and 20 audits were not posted on the district’s website.

Lunde also criticized the district’s lack of communication with the public about the Comprehensive Master Plan. “It’s not communication when you only take feedback and don’t answer questions. We don’t know what’s going on and that’s unacceptable,” said Lunde.

After some discussion, the Board decided to defer a new eSPLOST V project for new athletic field lighting until a plan to bring district facilities into ADA compliance is prepared.

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