Decentralized Redistricting Saves Taxpayers More

January 30, 2011

Tonight, Sunday, January 30, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline to complete the DeKalb County School System’s online survey regarding the “centralized” and “decentralized” plans for school redistricting. Click here to participate in the survey.

If you miss this deadline, you also can e-mail the members of the DeKalb County Board of Education with your thoughts about the two proposals. In fact, you should consider doing this whether or not you have completed the survey. The Board of Education will make the final decision about redistricting.

Click here for a blog post that will enable you to e-mail all nine school board members and Superintendent Ramona Tyson with one click of your mouse. This “one-click” e-mail function is courtesy of Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan’s “Dunwoody North” Blog.

Click here and scroll down to “Options” to see PDF maps of the centralized and decentralized proposals.

The centralized option involves moving the high achiever magnet programs from Kittredge (formerly Nancy Creek) Elementary School and Chamblee Middle School to Avondale Middle School and from Chamblee High School to Avondale High School. It also includes substantial boundary changes that are disruptive and counterproductive to neighborhood schools throughout our community.

The decentralized option would keep the magnets at Kittredge Elementary, Chamblee Middle, and Chamblee High, and involves less disruption to existing attendance zones.

An enterprising Montgomery Elementary parent has created an excellent new website, Decentralize DeKalb (click for link), that is an information clearinghouse for parents like me who oppose the centralized plan and support the decentralized plan. I encourage you to visit it. Among other things, there is a petition on the website that awaits your electronic signature.

Here is the most important thing you need to know about the two redistricting plans: The decentralized plan actually yields the greatest cost savings for the school system. That’s right. The plan that causes the least disruption saves the most money!

Click here for a PDF document posted on the school system’s website on Friday, January 28, that says as much. The following are the “money quotes,” so to speak:

“We estimate the centralized plan to save the DeKalb County School District approximately $150 million in operating costs over the next ten years; the decentralized option is estimated to realize gains of approximately $161 million over that same time period. Additionally, we can expect an extra $5 million in capital entitlement earnings over the ten years period from the centralized plan (and slightly less in the decentralized plan).”

…and…

“This summer, we expect the centralized plan to initially cost $140,000 (moving and appraisal costs) and the decentralized plan to cost $110,000. There may be additional costs as the proposals are refined and capital improvements to certain schools may be required. Additionally, the centralized plan may require some additional annual expense for the provision of band, athletics, and other extracurricular activities at the centralized magnet schools.”

Disrupt more schools. Save less money.

That’s the centralized plan.

Disrupt fewer schools. Save more money.

That’s the decentralized plan.

These are talking points that should find their way into every citizen’s communications with the members of the Board of Education until they make a decision on redistricting.


Moving MARTA in the Right Direction

January 19, 2011

Despite the sheet of snow and ice covering everything in Metro Atlanta on Monday, January 10, the General Assembly carried out its constitutional responsibilities to convene on the second Monday in January and inaugurate Governor Deal and new constitutional officers.

I made it to the Capitol that morning courtesy of MARTA. I mention my mode of transportation because, even though it took about twice as long as usual, the trains were running regardless of the weather. This underscores MARTA’s importance to mobility in Metro Atlanta. In fact, I frequently ride MARTA from Chamblee to Downtown Atlanta.

A week that started with relying on MARTA to perform the job you elected me to do ended with another unique MARTA-related development: Last Friday, I was appointed by Speaker David Ralston and the House Committee on Assignments to serve as the new Chairman of the MARTA Oversight Committee, known as MARTOC.

My other committee assignments for the 2011-12 term include continued service as Vice Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and as a member of three other committees: Transportation, Insurance, and Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight.

I am picking up the MARTOC assignment from Jill Chambers, who represented the adjacent district in North DeKalb, including Chamblee and Doraville, and served as Chairman of MARTOC for six of her eight years in the State House. On her watch, MARTOC went from a committee that did virtually nothing to a watchdog over MARTA’s budgeting and spending practices.

MARTOC’s work of reviewing the budget and fiscal affairs of MARTA will continue. We will not be going back to the days (years, actually) when MARTOC was a do-nothing committee. A review of MARTA’s 2008 to date purchasing card expenses (click for AJC article) will be a starting point for pressing forward with MARTOC’s oversight duties.

Delivery of criticism, however, will be different. It is my intent to have a legislator who serves on MARTOC in attendance at most meetings of the MARTA board of directors, which is the board that makes budget and policy decisions for MARTA. That will begin on Monday, January 24, with my own attendance at a MARTA board meeting. The lines of communication between MARTOC and MARTA will be frequent, open, transparent, and direct.

Furthermore, over the course of 2011, MARTOC is going to undertake a comprehensive review of the MARTA Act, the 1960s state law that created MARTA. This likely will result in changes to the MARTA Act during the 2012 (next year’s) session of the General Assembly. This project is intended to dovetail with the ongoing work of the Transit Governance Study Commission (click for more information), which I helped to create, and hopefully will result in a 21st century MARTA law that yields better value for taxpayers and better service for riders.

MARTA is a state-created authority that is funded directly out of the pockets of Fulton and DeKalb taxpayers through a one-cent sales tax. You and I pay for it. My mission is to make sure that all of us get the best “bang for the buck” out of the MARTA system.


School Redistricting Meeting at Chamblee High

January 19, 2011

There is a very important community meeting about school redistricting scheduled for Thursday, January 20, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. at Chamblee High School. If you have the time, I hope you will join me there.

The DeKalb County Board of Education is considering two proposals for redistricting, a “centralized” option and a “decentralized” option.

The centralized option involves moving the high achiever magnet programs from Kittredge (formerly Nancy Creek) Elementary School and Chamblee Middle School to Avondale Middle School and from Chamblee High School to Avondale High School. It also includes substantial boundary changes that will affect neighborhood schools throughout our community.

The decentralized option would keep the magnets at Kittredge Elementary, Chamblee Middle, and Chamblee High, and involves less disruption to existing attendance zones.

Click here and scroll down to “Options” to see PDF maps of the centralized and decentralized proposals.

Personally, I oppose the centralized option and would prefer the decentralized option. I’ll be attending the Chamblee High meeting not as a legislator, but as a concerned parent who chose to live in attendance zones that would face substantial changes under the centralized option.

I hope to see you at Thursday’s meeting. You should also consider e-mailing the members of the Board of Education with your thoughts about the two proposals. They will make the final decision.

Click here for a blog post that will enable you to e-mail all nine school board members and Superintendent Ramona Tyson with one click of your mouse. The “one-click” e-mail function is courtesy of Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan’s “Dunwoody North” Blog.


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