Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Furloughs Return

It appears that the declining property values in DeKalb have impacted the school system budget more than anticipated. So, without even discussing other options*, our board seems to be following the superintendent's recommendation to now have four furlough days for 10 and 11 months employees and 7 days for 12 month employees. I can't stress enough that there was ZERO discussion from any board member besides Sarah Copelin-Woods about any alternatives.

*-- Sarah Copelin-Woods did make inquiries about consultants and programs and asking why these aren't being cut since test scores keep dropping. She was first told that was all federal dollars, and when she wouldn't back down, was promised a list of all programs and consultants and funding sources. She really was the ONLY ONE who pushed for alternative cuts. She was clearly angry and discouraged. Of course, she went a bit off topic, trying to make her points about not closing schools.)

Several board members repeatedly said that 90 percent of the expenses in DCSS are salaries and benefits. And that there isn't enough in the remaining 10 percent to cut. Huh? Figuring a 750 million dollar budget, wouldn't that be about 75 million to look at for 15 million. (Each furlough day for ten month teachers saves about 3.2 million dollars. How about a combination of cuts?)

Dr. Walker says that Marcus Turk is one of the top people in his field in the country. (SCW isn't quite as sure he is the best.)

To see the meeting for yourself, go here:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/vision-2020/master-plan

then click on video (June 1st)

The remainder of the meeting is about SPLOST.

44 comments:

Passionate... said...

Should be furlough days for 11 and 12 month folks. Last year, 10-11 and 12 month all had different allotments. When reinstated, each had the same furlough days. 10 month employees should not receive furlough days. This really bites!

themommy said...

opps I left out that part. I will go and add that in.

teacher said...

Our new board members have been a disappointment. Sorry that I supported their candidacy. Not sure that our children will ever catch a break.

Open+Transparent said...

Yes, Dr. Walker, Marcus Turk is one of the top people in his field...at being the CFO for a system strife with bloat, waste, nepotism and cronyism.


Every day that goes by, I'm more and more disappointed with Nancy Jester and Donna Edler. Are y'all really making any difference?
And Pam Speaks, freaking gosh darn stand for something...anything...!!!

We really need to elect people like Kim Gocke, Ella, Shayna S., Sandy S., and Ernest Brown (when he's not insanely singing the praises of Ramona).

Nothing is gonna change with the current BOE and Central Office clowns in place, led by lead clown Tom Bowen, who has the backbone of a jelyfish.

unknown said...

DeKalb county said that property tax revenue is falling: http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/property-revenue-down-even-956460.html

That's got to have some effect on the schools budget. It can't be ignored.

concerned said...

How is it that SCW is now our most transparent boardmember? She is really the only one looking out for the kids now.

Cerebration said...

Actually, Sarah has looked out for children for a long time -- it's just always been the children of the schools in her own district. I think she may finally be seeing the connection between the leadership's decisions, the elitists who make certain their own children attend a special program and her own community's tendency to fend for themselves rather that fight for the whole community and the resulting decline in the quality of the neighborhood schools.

melaniestef said...

It is now time for the School Board to put children first and raise the milliage rate before that corrupt county commission does. Lots of property values in South DeKalb dropped by 50% so their school taxes will drop by 50%unless an increase is voted for. DeKalb emploees have suuuered enough for too long. Are Board members so afraid of getting re-elected that they won't even entertain a property increase. This really won't cost us taxpayers anything with the deductions.
Please we need a SUPT. yesterday.

September said...

Furloughs are the easy way out because you don't have to look for and cut the waste in the budget. The problem with furlough days is that the work has to be done anyway. So, teachers take a pay cut and will work unpaid hours to get the job done. The school board and the county office people know this.

Linda said...

This news about the furlough came at the same time as our vastly reduced property tax--which would be good news if it meant only that we had to pay lower taxes. However, taxes were lower because the value of our home has declined so, so much. And as long as the schools deter families from moving to DCSS, and scare away so many families that already live here...the cycle will continue.

Besides the obvious disappointment at yet another pay cut on top of four years of no raises or step increases, I feel disillusioned that the Board said the furlough days would be "restored" as of April 18. There was mild rejoicing by some of us teachers--a little sign of hope. (Even if we can't entice a Superintendent here, maybe we can at least pay the staff). It's not just about the money: it's about trust, and being valued, and most of all, to me at least, about NOT BEING LIED TO.

themommy said...

Yes, the huge drop in property values in DeKalb is hurting revenues to DCSS. The big question is how do you cut the budget. There was clearly no effort made to make any cuts other than furloughs. With the exception of Ms. Woods, there was no outrage.

In my community, assessments did not drop. Our property taxes will go up because the county will raise them. While home values are important, they don't pay the bills and the teachers who live around here just got hit doubly hard.

Does anyone know if they now have to have new budget hearings?

teacher said...

@ the mommy,

Teachers who live and work in DeKalb across the county are hurting. If your home value has dropped and you're not able to sell it for what you paid for it and put into it and on top of that your salary has dropped you are in a bad situation. If you're home value has remained steady and your salary drops, you're in a much better financial situation.

I know that my home value has dropped $75,000 because of 2 foreclosures in my neighborhood. Updating the house and things didn't add to the value according to the appraisers, it will just make a little easier to sell. In reality we're well over $110,000 in the hole from all of the updates that we made to our home in a nice neighborhood that feeds into Druid Hills High School.

I don't see home values increasing any time soon, so this was is disconcerting to me. We have a problem that we have lower revenue. Raising taxes is not the answer for the long run. In the short run, it will increase tax revenue, but what effect will that have on making DeKalb enticing in the long run? How much of the tax increase will the county actually take in, as there is that state formula that "equalizes" tax revenue.

The two new board members who offered change and accountability as part of their running platform have really disappointed me and others. If they are so into numbers and such, why aren't they looking into and suggesting downsizing employees that aren't in the classroom? Why aren't they suggesting another way to balance the budget? I don't see them being any better or different than the people that they replaced. It's a shame when Sarah Roberts is touted as caring for the children, even though she only cares about those that live in her district.

themommy said...

There should have been a budget committee called and options should have been explored. There certainly was the ability to make a few cuts that would have meant
at a minimum fewer furlough days.

I believe that the next budget cycle is going to be brutal. While the appraisals in my neighborhood didn't drop this year -- they certainly will next year. The tax appraisals we just received are based on 2010 activity. Prices have plummeted this year if things can sell at all.

The latest research shows that nationally home prices are at about 2000 levels.

DCSS

dundevil said...

Does anyone know anybody in North DeKalb whose home appraisal value was decreased? I just got my appraisal notice. It is the same as it was during the peak boom year 2007.

atl said...

@dundevil
I live in Central DeKalb and my county appraisal has not dropped. Tax increases proposed will put me at well over $5,000 a year. I'm interested in how you can get a realistic appraisal on your house. It's hard to believe my home has not dropped in value.

sharon said...

I am fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood where property values have not plummeted. And I am happy to pay my taxes. It seems to me that you all think that just by electing a couple of new board members we could wave the magic wand and all would be fixed. Real change is for the long haul and not for the faint hearted. This is not about us, it's about our students. We just need the zeal to work the process, electing responsible board members, expressing our opinion, getting to a consenus and sometimes compromising to make those little steps instead of waiting for the magic wand. In my opinion (and I know that many disagree) we have made some small progress under Ms. Tyson. Much more is to be made under the new superintendent and the superintendent after that. Last year the property tax digest was higher than the estimates and some of the furlough days were reduced. I will write my board members and ask that they search for a way to restore the furlough days for school house personnel.

themommy said...

Sharon

They did discuss reducing the furlough days if the money becomes available, but I need to correct something.

The furlough days were reduced this year because the feds dumped a ton of unexpected stimulus dollars into the school system. The board members that gave Turk et all credit for reducing the furlough days were incorrect. IT was money from the feds that allowed that to happen. (18 million to be precise. That money won't be coming again.)

Here is where we discussed it back in October

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/10/no-more-furloughs.html

Daniel said...

The problem with 4 furlough days for 10-month employees is that it works out to one more day than we had last year after the days were reinstated thanks to the Ed Jobs bill. Yet another pay cut - 3 years in a row :(

September said...

There are some areas in North DeKalb where property values have held together. It might be that people in these areas are waiting for the market to stabilize or improve a little before they try to sell. At some point the housing market will start to recover and house prices will go up a little. Why sell at the bottom of the market, if you don't have to?

Does anyone remember how much a 1 mil tax increase would be on a $200,000 house?

teacher said...

We had an appraiser come out and appraise our house in January after hubby was offered a job out of state. What they did was look at homes that have sold that are in similar condition to your home, in the same school district (feeding schools), and have sold recently.

In my neighborhood there were 2 foreclosures that had sold in November and December and they were the houses that had sold most recently. These foreclosures plummeted my home value.

I did not think that my property values would have dropped as much as they have. People have their homes up for sale for much more than what they will be appraised for. Doesn't matter what someone is willing to pay, it matters what it will appraise for. I have friends that are real estate agents and home appraisals are what are killing many home sales. Banks are not willing to pay more for a house than it's worth and with home values still falling, many banks are taking 10% off of what it appraises for as what they value the home at, leaving a cushion if home values drop further.

You can look at tax records of homes that are similar to your home that have sold recently. The difficult part is finding recently sold homes. Good luck.

themommy said...

According to realtors, in parts of N. DeKalb prices have dropped to levels between 2001 and 2004, so not yet quite as bad as the rest of the country, but not great either.

However, because there have been so few sales it is going to be hard to appeal this year. (AT least in some neighborhoods.)

However, now homes are coming on to the market where people don't have a choice.

In my neighborhood, there are 4 homes that are for sale -- two are because the owners died and the other two are job relocations. We also had a foreclosure that closed last year.

I see no uptick in prices/values coming anytime soon.

Gene Walker admitted his optimism was misplaced for this year -- the problem is that I don't think anyone appreciates how bad it is going to be next year.

SHS said...

@ Sharon 10:59 AM

DCSS has plenty of money to educate our children well. But, Ramona does not have the guts to do what needs to be done in terms of getting rid of over-paid, under-talented Palace employees, beginning with Crawford Lewis' inner circle. Unfortunately, Ramona, herself, was part of that group.

As Deputy Superintendent of Operations, with Finance reporting to her, Ramona was one of 4 direct reports to Lewis. She had to know exactly what was going on. It is unlikely, for instance, that Marcus Turk made a unilateral decision to approve P-card expenditures that he had already told Lewis were not okay. Tyson was his boss. Wouldn't Turk have gone to her for approval of Lewis' questionable P-card expenditures?

Maybe she is being blackmailed? Who knows? Regardless, Ramona is NOT getting the job done in terms of significantly cutting the over-paid, under-talented mostly-friends-and-family Palace staff. Cutting by half would be a start -- beginning with the highest paid first. They are not the worker bees.

Take a look at:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/found-dcss-has-money-for-education.html

and this:

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/office-of-school-improvement-oxymoron.html

Darryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Atlanta Media Guy said...

The public is screaming, the teachers are screaming and yet the bloated Central Office staff remains and the teachers get furloughed again. I guess this means their 401K match promises will be broken again too.

Yet, Audria Berry and her Army continue to fail DCSS in her Office of "improvement" and since those are Federal Funds they all keep their jobs, the kids continue to fail and the fraud that DCSS is continues.

Mr. Womack it's time to start answering our questions. How can you vote for a budget, that will most likely raise our taxes and in good conscience not expect the Central Office salaries and expenses be cut by at least 20%?

Hey BOE, the kids are failing because the teachers are giving up since you do not show them the respect they deserve. These folks continue to do the dirty work yet the Central Office gets their $5K chairs, Air conditioning that is so cold everyone wears sweaters when it's 90+ degrees outside and the cushy jobs that have no effect on the classroom continue to get created.

Let's go BOE, show some guts! SCW did with her questions. Ms. Jester, Speaks and Edler need to join in the chorus of what the ______!

Mr. Turk is not the best at his job, if he was he would have already blown the whistle on CLew and Pope as well as the rest of CLew's inner circle. He tried once but was rebuffed pretty quickly by Clew himself. I bet Turk knows something about everyone on the staff. He was the one that went to Tyson about clew's P-card abuses and then went directly to Clew himself and told him he could not take a companion (allegedly Ms. Berry) to the Bahamas or Reynolds Plantation Ritz on his P-Card. Yet Clew did just that. A great CFO would call his boss on it and start whistle blowing, instead he wimped out. Sorry Dr. Walker, Mr. Turk has not been a good steward of THE TAXPAYERS money, neither has anyone on the BOE or in the Central Office staff.

SHS said...

50% of the bloated, ineffective, over-paid and under-talented Palace staff could be cut and they would never be missed! Ever.

Want proof? See: http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/found-dcss-has-money-for-education.html

More proof? See:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/office-of-school-improvement-oxymoron.html

The Palace People have NO shame!

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Sorry Sandy, You're right! I was trying to be level headed with only a 20% cut, but reading your excellent posts you highlighted, I wonder what would happen if we furloughed 50% of the Central Office Staff for a month, would anyone notice? Plus, wouldn't that be enough to fill the budget gap without furloughing the front line staff, OUR TEACHERS and IN-SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS?

dundevil said...

In computer talk there is the expression GIGO -- Garbage (information) In Garbage (answer) out.

Why is it that I have the suspicion that the DeKalb County Tax appraiser's computer program is rigged to lower appraisals (and taxes) in South DeKalb and maintain the 2007 peak value appraisals in Central and North DeKalb?

After 8 years of Vernon Jones and 2 of Burrell Ellis (affectionately called "Little Vernon" on the DKC Police Officer's blog) nothing would surprise me.

Pineapple said...

I am disappointed. We were given bonuses and restoration on December 9th. April we were told no furlough for 2011-2012 and that we should see an increase on our checks. Now 6 months later we are furloughed again. SMH! I am also upset because Madam Tyson received $70,000 plus increase and no questions were asked. Again what has she done to deserve this. NOTHING!!! The slavemistress needs to go along with the BOE. DCSS employees are slaves and the overseers and mistress are at the plantation (MIA in Stone Mountain)

Cerebration said...

Atl Media Guy - let's not exaggerate - those chairs were only $2,000...

Cerebration said...

Been looking - can anyone find the video of Paul Womack, taken at CHS, I believe, after Crawford's department and the board members were circulating around in advance of redistricting decisions? What I’m thinking of, is Paul’s declaration that a year from now “you won’t recognize” the DCSS administration because of planned cuts and changes (to Central Office). Do you all remember that promise???

Fred said...

dundevil, you should actually point your fingers at the state legislators. They changed the law that now allows foreclosures to factor into property assessments. Factor in the junk loans given to residents with little to no money down who could not afford the home along poor quality entry level homes that were overbuilt in South DeKalb, you have the situation we have today.

Some might also say the deregulation of the investment banking industry which allowed them to get into the residential mortgage business with junk loans caused much of the problems we see in DeKalb and around the country.

Follow the dollar. There is plenty of blame to go around. Watch the movie "To Big to Fail" for more eye opening infomation about why we are where we are.

aquafinanow said...

We must work together to save our schools and restore our home values.

Passionate... said...

I remember the promise Cerebration...no significant cuts were made at AIC. 2009-2010, DCSS central office staff created benchmarks for every 6 weeks in reading and math at elementary level. This year 2010-2011, DCSS central office staff reduced the number of created benchmarks by over 50%. Instead local school house staff, including APIs, were trained to create benchmarks at the school house. From my perspective, it seems like the DCSS staff that remained at AIC did way less this year than last. AND I know that **More AIC staff completed specialist and doctorate degree programs at work. When AIC staff can complete graduate studies at work, it's time for them to go. Surveys of school house employees documenting the number of hours they work at school and at home on behalf of children versus central office staff documentation would show a significant percentage difference. Many jobs at AIC are what I like to refer to as cushy jobs, come at 8, 1 hour for lunch and out by 4, with no work at home. In addition: A solution for Title I Office of School Improvement Federal Funds only department---put all Title I employees including Dr. Audria Berry back in classrooms to lower student/teacher ratio. AIC staff needs to be in the "trenches" again. BOE needs to be in local school houses again. Bottom-line with furloughs returning-teachers morale will be at an all time low. Want to build up morale of teachers, cut AIC staff. Give only AIC staff furlough days. Leave all school based employees alone. DCSS has a deep wound that hasn't healed. It is time for major surgery! It is time for healing!

aquafinanow said...

Save the schools by saving the teachers.

aquafinanow said...

Oh!

aquafinanow said...

Help! Help!

flayshigs said...

aquafinanow, catch this life preserver!

Cerebration said...

ok - someone sent me the link in an email -- it was a post on the blog! The Kittredge meeting (I shot it with my iPhone -- my apologies for the poor quality!)

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/11/interesting-meeting-at-kittredge-magnet.html

Also, Paul Womack promised us that they were in the process of cutting the administration so deeply that it would be "unrecognizable".

Atlanta Media Guy said...

Great find Cere! I remember that meeting at Kittredge. Womack was saying stuff and it was right before the election Redovian and Jester were there weren't they? Wow, great find! This needs to be played at the next public comments so Womack could explain what he meant.

Sorry Cere I meant to say $2K chairs earlier. Something over there cost $5K. I know the light system in the Palace Meeting room cost in the $30's right?

Hope to see lots of teachers at the next public comments meeting. We must remain vigilant even during the Summer, the time the BOE can do most of the damage before the taxpayers realize it.

Cerebration said...

The $2k chair comment was tongue in cheek really -- I mean, does it matter? $2k or $5k? My chair cost $59 at Office Max! Geesh!

And yes, we are about to enter the most difficult time to track the actions of the board -- and sadly, this is the time they will be choosing a new superintendent.

SHS said...

But ... DeKalb School Watch will be there all summer ... the eyes and ears of DeKalb taxpayers!

Whatever you see, whatever you hear, whatever you know ... tell us! Share your documentation with us, too, please.

If you don't want to comment, you can always e-mail to: reparteeforfun@gmail.com

We can keep a confidence and we won't blow your cover!

Help DeKalb School Watch help you!

flayshigs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
flayshigs said...

The tax digest in DeKalb County has decreased, but there has been a method to the madness. When the county website was updated last Friday night to reflect digest revisions, I spot checked properties in my area. I found that while some neighborhoods values were revised downward, other neighborhoods perceived to have more value had minor assessment reductions or none at all. Looking further, it appears that those that received assessment reductions were thrown a bone to appease them, yet in many instances, the reduction was not in line with recent sales or foreclosures in the neighborhood. Additionally, those neighborhoods with no assessment change check out the foreclosures in your area. They will affect your appraised value if you elect to sell now. Middle to lower end condominiums were the clear winner in county reassessment, however, their new values do not come close to the value of recent sales or foreclosures. The county is gambling on the fact that few people will take the time to research and protest the value of their property and they will win this bet.

Last year I reduced my assessed value in half of its 2009 county value. The current county valuation is actually twenty-two per cent lower than the property cost when purchased twenty-three years ago. Taking note, my neighbors met with me demanding to know the details of my success. Those that acted on the knowledge I shared with them actually had their property assessment reduced ten per cent lower than the lowest comparable property used for their protest, similarly lower than their original purchase prices. Those that did not protest their assessments received reduced assessments due to the efforts of those that did. However, their revised assessments are significantly higher when compared to an equal property of an owner that protested their property valuation. They were thrown a bone by DeKalb County.

For those that will be selling their property in the near future, Real Estate values are troubling. In today’s market you can actually purchase a home for the cost of just the materials it would take to build it. For those of us that are stuck where we are or have no plans to sell, now is the time to take advantage of this economic down turn. DeKalb County and DCSS will not be making the financial decisions we as individuals have to make. Our only course is to reduce our tax liability. Ask yourself this: Had you rather pay property taxes on an inflated valuation of three or four years ago or on the value of the property today? For those with reduced assessments, are you satisfied with the “bone” Calvin Hicks threw you or would you prefer to research your actual value and if lower challenge the county assessment? Consider these questions carefully; millage rates are sure to rise shortly.

Some of us out here are tired of the county and school system incompetence. Many of you have worked diligently to make changes in county government and DCSS with little success. County and BOE folks may not pay attention to us, but they sure do pay attention to the tax digest. Now get off your tail, check your assessment protest deadline and protest those taxes!

Cerebration said...

Exactly right Flay!

Mary Swint of the Dunwoody Crier just wrote a very good article on the subject -

DeKalb now talking 4 mill tax hike

The county has not seen such a dramatic drop in values since 1933, DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner said.

The county might receive 50,000 to 70,000 appeals from the 240,000 assessment notices, Stogner said. The county is limited to collecting taxes on 85 percent of the assessment until the appeal is resolved and the remaining 15 percent may not be collected until 2012. To handle the high volume of appeals, the tax assessors board has asked for funds for additional appeals panels, he added.

The CEO will make a recommendation on the 2011 millage rate on June 7 and mid-year budget adjustments on June 14. The commissioners will hold at least three public hearings on July 5 and 12 before making their final decision on July 12.