There are a number of issues related to our public schools, fortunately, neither the Houston County system or the Bibb County school system is in the shape of DeKalb County. While we hate that $8 million in reserves may have to be used to balance Bibb’s $179.6 million budget for 2013, it still leaves the system with a $15.7 million cushion, no cuts in instructional days or furloughs.
Houston County is in even better financial shape. On a general fund budget that’s $217 million, it has a $65 million fund balance. In today’s atmosphere, with the state changing its funding formulas and cutting revenues to schools, a healthy rainy day fund is essential. Houston is aided by a penny SPLOST that goes to maintenance and operations of its schools. And according to the state, Houston is classified as a poor county and it receives more money from the state.
In comparison, DeKalb County schools are in a really deep hole. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, DeKalb has no reserves and will run an $85 million deficit for its budget that begins July 1 if drastic cuts are not implemented. The school board is considering cutting an additional 10 instructional days, more teacher furloughs, cutting pre-kindergarten and other measures including a 2-mill tax increase that would put the system at its cap of 25 mills. The system’s troubles have been brought about by a steep decrease in property values brought about by the Great Recession. So far, all of the proposed cuts have met steep resistance. So while our schools have issues, none of the local systems have been impacted as deeply as DeKalb County.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board