The board voted 5-4 to pass a $760 million general operating budget, which included more than $77 million in cuts.
Board members Tom Bowen, Sarah Copelin-Wood, Jay Cunningham, Donna Edler and Eugene Walker voted “yes” on the budget and for a 1 mill increase that would raise taxes another $14.8 million.
Nancy Jester, Don McChesney, Pam Speaks and Paul Womack voted against it.
The board had to make tough cuts to cover a projected $85 million shortfall. School officials blamed the projected shortfall on a 9 percent drop in property values, increasing health care costs, and increasing expenditures for fuel and utilities.
Teachers will be greatly affected by the budget cuts, and students will be jammed into larger classes.
Class sizes will increase by two students, including special education classes, for a savings of $10.2 million.
Teachers also will have two extra furlough days, which would save $6 million, bringing the total to six furlough days for the 2012-2013 school year.
The board eliminated the $35.57 monthly health insurance subsidy and the $16.02 monthly dental insurance subsidy for employees at a savings of more than $6.8 million.
The board also eliminated 25 media specialists, 29 media clerks, 200 paraprofessionals, and 10 assistant principals and 10 counselors through attrition.
The board was deciding on whether to cut 300 paraprofessionals and adding a third furlough day.
Organization of DeKalb Educators President David Schutten said he was satisfied with the results.
“It could have been worse,” he said. “The 10-month employees will get two more days, so that’s a good thing. I’m just glad this is over with.”
The board also cut $1.9 million from the Fernbank Science Center’s $4.7 million budget. Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson had recommended a $3.2 million cut.
Transportation for all magnet and choice programs – including DeKalb Early College, theme school students and Montessori programs – was previously on the chopping block. But Atkinson and her staff substituted it with a Transportation Efficiency Plan that will save the district $700,000.
More than 3,000 students would have lost their transportation to school if it had been cut. Arabia Mountain High School would have had the biggest impact with 891 students possibly losing their transportation.
Tanya Graham, president of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at Arabia Mountain High, was happy to see that transportation will be there for students.
“Had the bus transportation been eliminated, we may have had a mass exodus of students leaving our school because parents simply can’t get them all the way to Arabia Mountain,” she said. “Our students come from all over the county.”
During the June 20 meeting, board members argued over whether transportation should be cut. McChesney wanted transportation to be cut and leave the Fernbank Science Center’s budget as is. DeKalb is the only school system that provides transportation for students in special programs.
“This transportation that we are providing is above and beyond the mandates of the state,” he said. “We’re going to be letting people go that teach real children in real classrooms for diesel fuel.”
Edler fought back, saying the School Board should support all programs in every school.
“I am not one to suggest that … cutting from ‘real’ children at Fernbank Science Center versus ‘non-real children’ who may be utilizing transportation,” she said. “If we are going to have those programs, and transportation is a part of those programs, then we should provide that support to those real children who are receiving the benefits of those programs.”
The new general fund budget for fiscal year 2013, which starts July 1, is $760 million, but officials plan to spend only $752 million of that. DeKalb Schools spokesman Walter Woods said they expect to have over $8.3 million in reserve funds at the end of the fiscal year.