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Decatur School Board considering lowering the millage rate

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Decatur School Board considering lowering the millage rate

The Decatur School Board met on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, at the Wilson Center to discuss the millage rate, the district's vision and mission statements and the portrait of a scholar. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur School Board, at its June 13 meeting, discussed lowering the millage rate for school taxes from 21 mills to 20.3 mills.

“We got a report back from the tax assessor’s office that [the tax digest] is going to come in higher than we thought,” School Board Chair James Herndon said. “One of the things we were proposing discussing is lowering the millage rate to where we’re getting basically what we expected, not raise taxes by keeping the tax and the millage rate the same.”

Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold recently said the tax digest increased by 14.7% for the city. She also recommended a decrease in the millage rate for city taxes from 13.17 mills to 12.47 mills.

CSD had projected a 7% increase in the tax digest. With the lower millage rate, City Schools of Decatur would still see some additional revenue. Chief Financial Officer Lonita Broome said the district initially projected to receive $54 million in revenue from property taxes. With the lower rate, CSD is projecting to receive $57 million in revenue.

The school board will hold its final virtual millage rate public hearing on Thursday, June 15 at 5 p.m. Following the hearing, the board will hold a virtual meeting on June 15 at 5:15 p.m. to approve the final millage rate. All meetings will be held virtually and will utilize the same Zoom link. To join the meetings, click here.

In other business:

– The school board awarded a contract to CGS, LLC in the amount of $234,000 to renovate the backfield at Talley Street Upper Elementary School. This item is part of the consent agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

The project would be funded using funds from the special purpose local option sales tax.

“We have a need to do some backfield renovation at Talley,” Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman said at the March 8 work session. “If you have kids there, you’ve seen how muddy it gets. There were some things that probably should’ve been done the first time around that didn’t, so we’ve to go in there and remediate that.”

The goal of the renovations is to provide the field with more drainage.

“Some of the issues we have is excessive water runoff coming from adjacent properties. At some point, the field was completely pooling water,” Chief Operating Officer Sergio Perez said.

As part of the project, the current sod will be removed, and a new topsoil mixture will be added to provide the saturation and necessary soil for drainage. New sod would then be added. The district needs to do the renovations this spring to give the new sod time to grow to be ready for the next school year, Perez said.

– Herndon also thanked Fehrman, on behalf of the board, for her work as superintendent. Her contract will expire on June 30, and she will serve as the next superintendent of Asheville City Schools in North Carolina beginning in July.

“To say that Dr. Fehrman inherited a school district in need of some leadership stability would be a bit of an understatement,” Herndon said. “Maggie brought, during a time of stress on education, political and social changes, stable district leadership that was pivotal to help our students recover and continue to grow from the pandemic era learning loss.”

A few of Fehrman’s accomplishments as superintendent include developing a five-year strategic plan, working to renew CSD’s charter, and championing the Decatur Virtual Academy. She has also remained data-driven during her tenure at CSD.

“Her leadership has propelled CSD to remarkable success,” Herndon said. “We ranked first in the state for student performance in categories like third-grade reading, fifth-grade reading, [English language arts], a 96.73% graduation rate in a community that is more than 10% economically unequal.”

– The school board approved the district’s mission and vision statements and the portrait of a CSD scholar. The board will also discuss social studies and science updates.

As CSD developed its strategic plan, Fehrman included reviewing the school system’s mission and vision statements and creating a portrait of a scholar, according to the executive summary attached to the agenda. Fehrman contracted with Leader Bubble, LLC., to lead the process.

The updated vision statement is, “We strive to cultivate an educational foundation that empowers students to realize their full potential, thrive as productive global citizens, ignite positive change, and create a more just and equitable world.”

The updated mission statement is, “In partnership with our community, our mission is to inspire and enable student growth through meaningful and engaging learning experiences supported by highly qualified and caring educators in a safe and inviting environment.”

A portrait of a graduate lays out the skills a school district believes its students should exemplify by graduation, according to the executive summary. The portrait of a CSD scholar includes characteristics and skills including being a creative critical thinker, a collaborator, a global citizen, resilient, an equity advocate, and a leader.

A look at the description of each characteristic of City Schools of Decatur’s portrait of a scholar. Photo courtesy of CSD.

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