DeKalb County School Board members deferred a vote on March 12 to cover a projected shortfall of nearly $40 million on SPLOST II and III projects.
Rather than vote on a proposed corrective action plan, board members voted unanimously to accept a subsequent motion put forth by DeKalb County School Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson.
“What you will be approving is our ability to move whatever projects we can to SPLOST IV within the legal limits and understanding two budgetary issues,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said the district would not take out bonds to jumpstart work on SPLOST IV, saving it $11 million that was set aside to pay for them. She said this would mean all projects would be paid out-of-pocket by the district.
Additionally, Atkinson told board members the district would ensure that all projects within SPLOST IV would be able to be completed, and then look at what the contingencies were for adding the SPLOST III projects to the list.
At the end of February, school officials told the board that due to accounting and over-budgeting from SPLOST II projects, as well as issues involving SPLOST III and the Chamblee High School replacement project, the school system faces a projected shortfall of nearly $40 million if corrective action was not taken.
Officials presented board members with a corrective action plan that reallocated some funds, closed out other projects from SPLOST II and halted 35 SPLOST III projects to cover the gap. However, board members tabled the vote twice.
Bill Wildman, who represents the school system, said its legal team would have to do some research as to whether the language on the SPLOST IV referendum was broad enough to cover moving some of the SPLOST III projects onto the SPLOST IV project list.
“My understanding is that you would first have to complete the SPLOST IV projects that were on the referendum then if we had any additional money come in from SPLOST IV we could apply it. But, I believe we first have to finish SPLOST IV projects that were on the referendum and voted on by the public,” Wildman said.
If the projects weren’t able to be added, Atkinson said the board would then vote on a corrective action plan.
“I’m not sure how long that would take us to check the language of the referendum. We should probably have an answer within 24 or 48 hours,” Atkinson said.
Board member Pamela Speaks said that if it is possible to move some of the SPLOST III projects to the SPLOST IV list, she wanted to make sure the legal team looked at whether it could move those SPLOST III projects to the front of the line.
“I just want to make sure that we’ll also be looking at the order in which we do those,” Speaks said. “If it’s possible we should move some of these projects to the front of SPLOST IV.”