DeKalb County Board of Education approves $2.02 billion consolidated budget for fiscal year

Cheryl Watson-Harris





The DeKalb County Board of Education on Aug. 9 approved the consolidated budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. DeKalb County School District (DCSD) proposed a $2.02 billion budget for all funds including the General Fund (operating budget) of $1.196 billion. The General Fund budget provides in excess of $836 million (70 percent) directly to schools with enrollment forecasted at above 97,000 students.

The budget includes significant funding from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and American Recovery Plan Act funds (CARES/ESSER) II & III of $452 million, which is available through Sept. 30, 2024. More than 63 percent of the general fund is proposed to be allocated towards instruction, including 20 percent to address learning loss, as well as include facility needs, including upgrades, renovations, capital improvements, student devices continued sanitation and supplies including personal protection equipment (PPE), support for continuity of services including school meal operations and employee retention bonuses and professional development.

The district implemented an innovative zero-based budget process for FY2022 allocating funding based on program efficiency and necessity, rather than budget history. Over the last year, District staff collaborated across divisions, schools and with community stakeholders utilizing data to align spending to meet the priorities of strategic goals and objectives in meeting the needs of students, staff and parents. The district is committed to equity and transparency and will ensure that all stakeholders are kept abreast of our progress and have the opportunity to engage in dialogue and co-create plans to serve our students.

“I am thrilled that the DeKalb County Board of Education approved this budget. Zero-based budgeting is something new for us, but without change, there is no change,” Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris said. “We expect that this type of budgeting will make every decision support quality teaching. We expect to meet every student’s academic, social and emotional needs with equity, while embracing the culture and diversity of our community. We also expect to hold everyone accountable for educational and organizational excellence.”

The budget includes investment in various district departments, including $130 million in Facilities and Operations and $76 million in Curriculum and Instruction. Under the proposed budget, DCSD plans to hire Multi-tiered System of Support specialists, expand early learning centers, increase professional learning to address instructional planning, reading, academic discourse, vocabulary, literacy and more.

“As a result of switching to a zero-based budget, we will be able to align resources to target strategic goals and objectives,” said Charles Burbridge, chief financial officer for DCSD. “A Zero-Based Budget is a budget that starts at zero and provides every school and every department with zero dollars and zero cents allowing for every financial decision to support quality teaching.”

The budget will also allow the district to increase staff, nurses and mental health services, including counselors and services. The District also plans to address social emotional learning needs, provide extended services to schools/regions by utilizing tiered approach for wrap-around services and more.

Under facilities and operations, the district plans to address work orders to ensure clean environments, conduct facilities assessments, increase quality of meals services for students, assess athletic programmatic needs, implement financial controls and oversight and manage construction oversight to ensure efficiencies.

The vision of DCSD—the vision for the DCSD graduate—is to inspire our community of learners to achieve educational excellence. The essence of who we are and what we do is to ensure student success, leading to higher education, work and life-long learning. We are committed to our scholars and removing barriers that disrupt their pathway to their preferred future. We are one district, and we want to ensure all students succeed with equity and access.

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