City Schools of Decatur Board will consider formal request for bond as hunt for real estate heats upCity Schools of Decatur Board of Education. File Photo by Carey O'Neil
The Decatur School Board will meet on May 12 and consider making a formal request for a bond referendum.
According to the agenda for the May 12 City Schools of Decatur Board of Education meeting, board members will consider asking taxpayers to borrow $75 million by issuing bonds. The bonds would pay for school construction to meet the system’s growing enrollment needs. The School Board request would be made of the City Commission. The City Commission would then have to approve placing the bond referendum on the ballot this November.
If voters approve the request, it will increase property taxes by about 8 percent. According to an example provided by CSD, it would raise taxes on a $500,000 home by $680 per year.
Decatur’s Schools are struggling with finding places to build schools within the city limits. The city had hoped to increase the amount of available land via annexation, but those efforts died in the state Legislature this year. Now every available piece of property on the market has entered the rumor mill as a possible school location.
Recently the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the owners of East Decatur Station also own about 35 acres from New Street to Sams Street. One of the partners told the AJC they’d “love to have an elementary school” in that area. Edwards reportedly told the AJC she is interested in speaking with the developers. To read those stories, click here and here.
When asked to comment about the AJC stories, Edwards said, “I’ll explore all possibilities” with regard to space for schools.
Decatur’s School Board has picked up the pace of holding closed-door meetings, known as executive sessions, to discuss real estate matters and other confidential issues. Normally, these meetings are convened at the end of regular school board meetings, but this year there have been four called executive sessions, meaning they were held outside of regular board meetings.
The School Board has held two of the called executive sessions to deal specifically with real estate matters: one on April 1 and one on Jan. 28. The most recent called executive session on May 6 was held at the office of CSD Attorney Bob Wilson. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss “personnel and legal matters,” according to the meeting agenda.
The location of the May 6 meeting was unusual. Most called meetings, including executive sessions, are held at the Central Offices of City Schools of Decatur, located at 125 Electric Avenue.
Decaturish asked Wilson why the School Board held the May 6 meeting at his office.
“Over the last 20 years the board has met at various locations and not always at the same location as the Administrative Offices, sometimes at one of the schools or in joint meetings with the city Commission at a school or City Hall,” Wilson said. “Over those years it has also had a number of meetings that were exclusively Executive Sessions (always publicly noticed) in our offices. No public meetings have ever been held here. These Executive Sessions have always been either in the evening or on a weekend day when the main administration building is already closed and secured. This prevents CSD from having to have someone come in after hours or on a weekend to close up and make certain everything is secure.”
But the public record shows that since 2011, nearly all of these called executive sessions have been held at CSD’s central offices, not Wilson’s. The record also shows that the most of the sessions held this year have been held on weekday evenings.
Three of the last four executive sessions were held at 6 pm or later, including the May 6 meeting at Wilson’s office. The May 6 meeting was the only executive session held there. The other meetings were held at CSD’s central office.
According to the meetings on the e-board website, the last time the School Board held an Executive Session at Wilson’s office was in July of 2011, to deal with a personnel matter. That meeting began at 4 pm. Decaturish could find no other instances of a publicly advertised executive session being held at Wilson’s office.
The May 12 regular School Board meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at the CSD central office at 125 Electric Avenue Decatur, GA 30030. The meeting begins at 6:30 pm.