DeKalb County School District receives clean auditDeKalb County School District Administration and Instructional Complex on Mtn. Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse
by Sara Amis, contributor
Decatur, GA — DeKalb County School District’s Chief Financial Officer Charles Burbridge presented an update on the financial audit for Fiscal Year 2020, conducted by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. The credit rating for the district was in danger of being downgraded early last year after delays and inconsistencies in financial reporting for FY18. Clean audits were received by the district for FY18 and FY19 last October.
Burbridge’s report indicated that auditors have noted improvements in timeliness, accuracy and transparency, and that final audits are on schedule to be delivered six months ahead of when FY19 results were available and one year ahead of FY18. An unmodified or “clean” audit is expected for FY20.
Burbridge also presented a projected budget for FY22, which includes both a restoration of state Quality Basic Education funding and the likelihood of reduced tax revenue. The projected revenue for FY22 is $1.17 billion, while the projected expenditures are $1.127 billion.
CARES and ESSER Act funding in three phases totalling $485.5 million is available for job loss prevention, learning loss and remediation, PPE, and other expenses related to the pandemic.
Board Chair Vickie Turner asked if the funding could be used to eliminate furlough days for teachers.
Board member Allyson Gevertz said that some of her constituents were concerned that the funding might be spent on litigation. The district has been engaged in a number of lawsuits, including a successful suit against former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and a discrimination suit against the district by former superintendant finalist Rudy Crew. The projected FY22 budget includes $12 million in legal fees.
Burbridge confirmed that the money is being used for recovery. “We’re not using those CARES dollars to fund legal settlements. Those funds are earmarked for student learning loss issues and other items,” said Burbridge.
“Our response to how we will use those funds is data driven. We’re not just creating a Christmas list of how we would like to use the funds,” said Watson Harris.
Some public comment preceding the meeting focused on how the district is spending money. Kurt Lunde criticized the comprehensive master plan, saying that needs are not the same throughout the district and that inequalities based on the condition of schools continue to exist. Despina Lamas said that the district needs to address overcrowding in District 1 schools.
Capital outlay as well as debt service and enterprise funding for FY22 will be discussed at the May board meeting.