City Schools of Decatur (CSD) Superintendent Phyllis Edwards said if Decatur moves forward with a proposed annexation, the school system may have to run at a deficit for the first two years to deal with the influx of new students.
Over the past five years, Edwards said, enrollment has increased approximately 33 percent. According to a presentation given to the school board by an annexation workgroup, enrollment is expected to double in the next five years even without annexation.
The workgroup, which consists of parents with students in CSD, teachers and employees of the Atlanta Regional Commission, has been meeting for nearly two months.
Decatur officials are considering annexing parts of the Midway Woods neighborhood, Clairmont and North Decatur Road; the Suburban Plaza area; the Sycamore Hill area; the Derrydown subdivision; and the United Methodist Children’s Home.
City officials say the considered areas have an estimated 4,000 residents, 800 properties and would add approximately 300 acres to the city. Edwards said that depending on what areas are annexed, the district is looking at approximately 270 students enrolling immediately.
“What some people don’t understand about school funding is that just because you get an increase of 12 percent, the money doesn’t immediately flow from the state,” Edwards said.
If the proposed areas are annexed, it would mean an additional $1.6 million in tax revenue for CSD but Edwards said even with that increase the district will still be in the red because it won’t get the federal funding for each new students until several years later.
“The first year there’s still going to be a deficit and that doesn’t even factor in how we move forward to figure out where another school could be,” Edwards said.
Decatur is a city with a four-square-mile radius and Edwards said in the next several years the school district will need to find a way to house the increasing student enrollment, with or without annexation being a factor.
“Our schools were built at a time when they were little neighborhoods schools,” Edwards said. “I’ve got some people that are working with us that are thinking through what to do in terms of our growth and factoring in our annexation piece.”
Although annexing the proposed areas is ultimately up to the city of Decatur, Edwards said city officials have worked closely with CSD to ensure that whatever happens, both the district and the city will collaborate to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Edwards said the next step for CSD is for officials to gather more information, especially in terms of exploring alternative funding options. The data will then be presented to the board during its regular December work session.
“I’m going to recommend that the board make a decision or adopt a resolution of some sort,” Edwards said.
If the city decides to move forward with the annexation, Edwards said, the district may have to explore ways to make up the needed revenue such as cutting expenditures or raising the millage rate.
Although these are serious issues facing CSD, Edwards said, it’s the mark of a vibrant school system.
“Things have to grow and change and I think we’ve been pretty adept at growing and meeting the needs, although this one has been quite a challenge,” Edwards said.
On Dec. 17, city officials plan to make a recommendation to the city commission on whether to adopt an annexation resolution, Edwards said. If an annexation resolution is passed, it would go to the Georgia General Assembly, which would vote to authorize any necessary referendum on the matter.