DeKalb County, Ga (WAOK/AJC)- DeKalb County school board members are looking at several ways to make up for a $73 million budget shortfall.

Board members Tuesday night talked about everything from teacher furloughs days, to more students in the classroom, to layoffs in the central office, to an increase in property taxes as ways to make up the difference. Now it is the public’s turn to weigh in on the options before the final budget is passed July 1.

According to the AJC, tax revenue continues to fall in DeKalb while costs for essentials such as employee healthcare continue to rise. The school board adopted a tentative budget that cut away more than half of the $73 million deficit. But, the rest of that budget proposal was balanced using a $30 million tax increase, double what the board proposed Tuesday.

The board is likely to find ardent advocates of any program it seeks to cut. For example, advocates of the Fernbank Science Center took up a petition to save the institution and its $4.7 million budget after it was added to the chopping block last week.

On Tuesday, board members took the Fernbank closure off the table. In an unofficial poll, they also scrapped the idea of saving $330,000 by eliminating middle school sports and saving $5 million by outsourcing custodians. They added cuts to health and dental insurance subsidies for employees for a savings of nearly $7 million, agreed to eliminate 200 teachers’ aides for another $7 million and supported cutting the school system’s pre-kindergarten program expenditures of $2.7 million.

Should all of them agree to the collection of cuts and tax increases, then class sizes will rise by an average of one student per teacher, and the school calendar will be two days shorter. Board member Tom Bowen introduced the proposal to increase taxes while cutting teachers and school days. He said the one mill increase should be rolled back by 2015.

The board is scheduled to vote on the final budget June 11. A series of public hearings will be held on the budget.


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