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Westchester safety, sales tax and annexation on busy Decatur School Board agenda

Annexation, new cities Decatur

Westchester safety, sales tax and annexation on busy Decatur School Board agenda

The Decatur School Board meets on Jan. 12, 2016. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
New School Board Chair Annie Caiola presides over her first meeting on Jan. 12. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

New School Board Chair Annie Caiola presides over her first meeting on Jan. 12. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The Decatur School Board has a packed agenda for its regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 9 that includes a discussion about safety around Westchester Elementary, a sales tax and annexation.

All meetings are open to the public. The Feb. 9 meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at City Schools of Decatur’s central office, located at 125 Electric Avenue Decatur, GA 30030.

The meeting will also include consideration of adding a sunset clause to a proposed expanded homestead tax exemption. For more information about that issue, click here.

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The School Board will discuss a draft resolution in support of safety improvements along Scott Boulevard in front of Westchester Elementary. Parents of that school launched a petition with the goal of making the road safer.

It says in part, “Despite numerous programs sponsored by the school system to encourage walking, parents are scared to walk their children to school along Scott for fear of serious injury. The sidewalks are narrow with little to no buffer between the sidewalk and the road. In addition, there is inadequate standing room at crosswalks for students waiting for the light to change.”

The petition says Westchester, which reopened in 2014 after being closed for 10 years, created a safety committee comprised of school leaders and parents. The committee has met with Decatur city officials and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and created a list of projects, including slowing down traffic on Scott between Clairemont and Coventry Roads and providing funding for traffic direction at Westchester as students are arriving and leaving.

The petition cites statistics gathered by Decaturish which found Scott Boulevard led the city in speeding tickets between January 2013 and April 2015.

The proposed resolution, which would be considered by the School Board and Decatur City Commission, asks both to support the following safety improvements:

– Reduction of the speed limit

– Addition of radar speed signs

– Crosswalk and signal improvements

– Continued evaluation of a pedestrian hybrid beacon in front of Westchester Elementary School

– Lengthened school zone with additional signage

– Sidewalk improvements

– A corridor study with recommendations of pedestrian and bike safety enhancing projects

School Board members will also discuss renewal of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST.

“SPLOST is an important revenue source for the school district,” the board agenda says. “Revenues from the countywide 1 percent sales tax are distributed proportionally based on student FTE counts between DeKalb Schools, Atlanta Schools (East Atlanta, in DeKalb County), and City Schools of Decatur.”

The renewal would have to be approved by voters on May 24, 2016. It could generate up to $30 million in revenue for City Schools of Decatur.

For a complete list of projects that would be funded by the SPLOST, click here.

In addition to the Westchester resolution and a discussion of the SPLOST, board members will receive an update on the current legislative session. One of the items on the update is, “Discuss annexation proposals.”

It’s not clear what will be discussed. The city of Decatur recently clarified that it is not actively pursuing annexation proposals in the current legislative session.

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