LOADING

Type to search

Gov. Kemp vetoes bill separating DeKalb city and school annexations

Decatur Metro ATL Trending

Gov. Kemp vetoes bill separating DeKalb city and school annexations

Brian Kemp. Photo obtained via http://sos.ga.gov/
Share

 

This story has been updated. 

Sources confirmed on Friday that Gov. Brian Kemp has vetoed Senate Bill 53 following a last minute push by City Schools of Decatur to reject the legislation.

The bill would make school annexations separate from municipal ones, meaning they would need to be approved in a separate referendum.

Kemp on Friday released a statement saying he was vetoing the bill because it would undermine home rule and lead to lawsuits.

The governor said:

Senate Bill 53 would provide that the jurisdictional limits of independent school systems no longer be coterminous with the geographical limits of municipalities in DeKalb County unless expressly approved in a separate referendum following a successful municipal annexation. The outcome of this second referendum would not be final until the vote is further ratified by the approval of a local Act of the General Assembly or approval of both the independent school system and DeKalb County Board of Education. Furthermore, no annexation may be contemplated unless the number of students within the proposed annexation area exceeds two percent (2 percent) of the total number of students enrolled in the DeKalb County School System. This act would subject referenda outcomes to legislative review, subjugate home rule, and invite litigation.

For the foregoing reasons, I VETO SENATE BILL 53.

Sen. Elena Parent, state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver and School Board member Marshall Orson all said that they were informed the bill had been vetoed.

Orson called the decision, “very disappointing” and said it “continues the ongoing risk to DeKalb students.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Schools of Decatur officials were not immediately available for comment. School Board Chair Lewis Jones told Decaturish on May 9 that the School Board hired a lobbyist for $10,000 to encourage the governor to veto the bill.

The expense was not approved in a public School Board meeting. Jones said the expense was not large enough to require a public vote. He said the School Board did know about it and was supportive of it.

“It’s important, in our view, that all children in the city of Decatur attend city of Decatur schools. Period,” Jones said. “This bill would change that.”

Jones also said the School Board was unaware of the bill until it passed the senate, something the county disputes.

In a press release following the news about the veto, DeKalb County Schools cited three examples of CSD being apprised of the bill and what it does. According to the county schools:

– At the February 12, 2019 board meeting for the City Schools of Decatur, a government relations staffer provided an update on SB-53 and discussed how the Board should continue and further engage the DeKalb Legislative Delegation and DeKalb County Schools. No such outreach was made.

– A Decatur Schools staff member attended a hearing held by the DeKalb County House Delegation, where the staffer expressed a desire for Decatur to be carved out of the bill so that it only impacted Atlanta Public Schools. The representative failed to articulate a substantive reason for such a carve-out, and none of the legislators believed Decatur’s request was reasonable.

– In 2018, when Senator Elena Parent was getting feedback on a bill similar to SB 53, she requested input from the leadership at Decatur Schools and received no response.

Source: DeKalb County Schools

Superintendent Stephen Green says that annexations in DeKalb County by cities with school systems ultimately hurts students in DeKalb County Schools.

An email from Green’s office points to the city of Decatur’s Parkwood neighborhood annexation in 2014 as an example of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Decatur completed the Parkwood annexation … and it diverts more than $500,000 a year to Decatur City Schools but moved fewer than 20 students into that district,” the email from Green’s office says. “Between Atlanta and Decatur annexations, more than $4.5 million annually has been diverted since 2013 for fewer than 60 students. As a result, [the DeKalb County School District] is educating pretty much the same number of students with significantly less money. DCSD has the second largest population of poor students in Georgia. Approximately 72 percent (~73,000) of DCSD students are on free and reduced lunch.”

DeKalb County Schools also gave the city of Decatur — which is separate from the school system — deference on a bill to annex Legacy Park into the city, formerly known as the United Methodist Children’s Home.

The city of Decatur initially raised objections to the timing of Senate Bill 53 being signed. The city had an annexation bill, Senate Bill 89, for Legacy Park. Kemp signed that bill this week.

Several of the cottages at Legacy Park will temporarily house families from the Swanton Heights apartment complex while that development undergoes renovation by the Decatur Housing Authority. Doug Faust, Executive Director of the DHA, said the plan is to have 10 families on the Legacy Park property at any given time as Swanton Heights is redeveloped.

If Senate Bill 53 had been signed before Senate Bill 89, it would have meant those students were technically in the county school district.

Green said the county school system didn’t object to Senate Bill 89 being signed before Senate Bill 53. Green says DeKalb is open to working through its differences with other school systems on annexation questions and cited DeKalb’s deference to the Legacy Park annexation bill as an example of the school system’s willingness to cooperate with the city of Decatur.

In its press release about the veto, the county school system said it was “disappointed” by the governor’s action and CSD’s involvement in the issue.

Here is the full statement from DeKalb County Schools:

DeKalb County School District leaders disappointed by Decatur’s last-minute Veto request on critical annexation bill

Press conference planned for Monday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m. on State Capitol’s South Wing Steps

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA. –  DeKalb County School District Leaders expressed extreme disappointment today after City Schools of Decatur lobbied Governor Brian Kemp for a veto on Senate Bill 53, a bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously during the 2019 legislative session.

“We had great hope in our neighbors at City Schools of Decatur,” DeKalb County School District Superintendent/CEO Dr. R. Stephen Green said. “But instead of engaging in legal and public discussion over the bill which Decatur had every opportunity to do, City Schools of Decatur has used back door methods to spread incorrect information.”

The bill did not change the process for how a city can annex property, instead it provided a separate, distinct process of how a school district boundary in DeKalb County can be altered after a city annexation. The change addresses the significant issue of the City Schools of Decatur and Atlanta Public Schools receiving tax revenue which was either commercial or residential with few if any students. These annexations divert significant revenue from DeKalb County, which must continue to educate the same number of students with significantly less revenue. The bill also would have required just compensation to DeKalb if school properties were annexed. Finally, the bill established a mechanism to address Decatur’s concern that small numbers of Decatur residents might not be able to attend Decatur schools by allowing the school districts to negotiate a solution in those very infrequent cases.

Since 2013, due to annexations by Decatur and Atlanta – two of the wealthiest school districts in the state – DeKalb County School District has lost $4.5 millionannually in perpetuity. There are no laws in place to protect DeKalb County from this cannibalization of their revenues. SB-53 would have put a process in place to allow DeKalb and Decatur to work together so any students living in an area of annexation can go to Decatur schools.

“We are not here to engage in a ‘they said – we said’ debate,” DeKalb County School Board Chair Dr. Michael Erwin said. “We simply want to set the record straight related to several claims made by the City Schools of Decatur.”

Despite allegations that school district officials did not have the opportunity to be heard as SB-53 was being considered during the 2019 General Assembly, City Schools of Decatur had several opportunities to collaborate on the bill.

 – At the February 12, 2019 board meeting for the City Schools of Decatur, a government relations staffer provided an update on SB-53 and discussed how the Board should continue and further engage the DeKalb Legislative Delegation and DeKalb County Schools. No such outreach was made.

– A Decatur Schools staff member attended a hearing held by the DeKalb County House Delegation, where the staffer expressed a desire for Decatur to be carved out of the bill so that it only impacted Atlanta Public Schools. The representative failed to articulate a substantive reason for such a carve-out, and none of the legislators believed Decatur’s request was reasonable.

– In 2018, when Senator Elena Parent was getting feedback on a bill similar to SB 53, she requested input from the leadership at Decatur Schools and received no response.

A joint press conference has been called by the Chairs of the DeKalb House and Senate Delegations on Monday, May 13 at 10:00 a.m. on the south wing steps of the State Capitol.

“To every member of the Georgia General Assembly, your UNANAMIOUS passage of this bill is appreciated,” Dr. Green said. “We will not forget your support of DeKalb County students.”

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.

Don't miss a single story

Sign up for the Decaturish daily email today

And get the latest news from Decaturish, and Atlanta Loop.
close-link