Thursday, May 24, 2012

Math with Nancy

Forget Coffee Talk, invite Nancy to your next event for MathTalk.  Before reading the news from our school board representative Nancy Jester, please watch the following video:

 or this video....

and now, here's Nancy:

Budget Update  
Last night the Board met to receive the Superintendent's "tentative proposed budget".  Technically the Board must approve a "tentative" budget in advance of a final vote on the FY2013 budget.  The tentative budget was approved last night 5 - 2.  I opposed. 

Click here to go to the DCSD webpage with the proposed budget documents. 

Additionally, I have placed a spreadsheet on my website under the documents tab, in the Budget FY2013 folder that details the "Budget Cut Options" for FY2013.  Click here to go to the webpage to view the spreadsheet. 

Please note that the Superintendent's approved "tentative budget" contains the cuts and tax increase that are listed in the column titled "Recommended Plan".  The column to the right ("All Cuts") is a total of all cuts with NO tax increase, NO pay decrease, NO additional furloughs and an increase in class size.  We must cover an approximately $73 million deficit.  You can see the value of each line item in this spreadsheet.  The "all cuts" column totals $77.9 million and would cover the deficit and begin to build our fund balance again.

As I have previously indicated, our millage rate is 22.98 mills.  We have the highest rate in the metro area and have been at this rate for 9 years.  We are also the only metro area district that will end this fiscal year with a deficit.  Our new Superintendent and her new staff did not bring us to this point. But it is my opinion that we need to demonstrate sustained fiscal restraint before thinking of increasing property taxes.  Furthermore, in the years where we had increasing property values, your taxes were not decreased nor were the funds invested in teachers or saved in reserve.

In the presentation we received yesterday, we were presented an interesting graph that detailed the value per mill that was generated by the tax base yearly from 2006 to 2012 (projected).  Here are the values per mill (in millions):

2006-07:  $20,396
2007-08:  $21,035
2008-09:  $22,003
2009-10:  $21,101
2010-11:  $20,400
2011-12:  $17,499
2012-13:  $16,449

The mean value is $19,840 and the median is $20,400.  Using the median, if you sum the positive differences from the 3 values above the median and multiply them by the millage rate of 22.98 mills you get $67.5 million.  Using the mean, if you sum the difference between the 5 values above the mean, and multiply that by 22.98 mills you get $131.8 million.  I think this is useful to try and capture an estimate to understand the amount that should have accrued to the taxpayers, teachers or reserves.

I have received several questions about the proposed cuts to various programs.  It is my understanding that the programs are not being eliminated.  The extra allotment of teachers that lowered class size within the program is being eliminated.  Now all programs will have the same class size situations that exist at all schools throughout the county.  My latest 'What's Up With That?" blog covers several popular questions that I've received.  Please take a look and leave a comment.  (Click here to go to the blog.)   

Central Office Reorganization 
The Superintendent has put together some facts and figures regarding her reorganization.  I've put them under "budget" under my documents tab.  (Click her to go to that page.)  The documents are labeled "Central Office".  The first document will show you the number of employees that worked in schools houses (ESOL teachers, magnet teachers, pre-k teachers, support staff, etc.) that were "coded" to the central office and have now been correctly identified as being school based employees.  The second document shows the number of central office employees for the upcoming fiscal year by function/department and how many positions have been eliminated from those core areas (73) with the reorganization.  Additionally, the proposed budget contains an additional reduction to the reorganized central office of 70 positions. 
Public Budget Hearing 
The next public budget hearing is scheduled for:
Wednesday, May 30th at 6pm
Administrative and Instructional Complex
1701 Stone Mountain Blvd.
Stone Mountain, GA 30083      


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alon's Bakery & Market (and Pizza) Dunwoody

It's a slow week in regards to news here in Dunwoody.  I leaked the week's big story of the Honorable Ken Wright being named parade marshal yesterday, and aside from that, not much happening in the Smart City.

With Dunwoody being a sleepy bedroom community to the north and a vibrant commercial district to  the southwest, I've had plenty of time to try out some different eating places lately.  Today's adventure was Alon's Bakery and Market, located across from Perimeter Mall off Ashford Dunwoody Road.

The occasion was meeting Alon and some of his staff, having a cold beer (yes, they have Hoegaarden), and trying Alon's new signature pizzas.  Pizza?  Yes.  Many of you know Alon's for the great baked goods, salads, and sandwiches, but did you know Alon built a wood-burning pizza oven?

Alon, pizza oven guy, me (Don't knock the Pirates shirt.  it's nearly June and the Buccos are only 4.5 back of the Cardinals)

My favorite sampled pizza was the Taleggio ( Taleggio, fresh mozzarella, fig balsamic, truffled honey, Marcona almond.  I also liked the  Margherita with crushed tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, basil oil pizza.  The Four cheese (Pecorino, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola) with lemon oil, shaved fennel and fresh oregano was also a hit.

The "Margherita"

“When we decided to put a pizza oven in our Dunwoody store, I had to go to Italy, the birthplace of pizza, for research,” says Alon Balshan, owner of Alon’s Bakery & Market. “After coming back to Atlanta and perfecting our pizza over the past few months, we are very proud of the results,” he adds. 

The pizza menu will feature the following options on a daily basis:
·         Pecorino, potato, Gorgonzola, garlic, arugula, bresaola ($18)

·         Margherita with crushed tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, basil oil ($14)

·         Crushed tomato, eggplant, olives, hot oil, fresh mozzarella ($15)

·         Assorted mushrooms, thyme, garlic, white sauce, Gruyere cheese, fresh   mozzarella ($17)

·         Basil pesto, grilled chicken, pine nuts, fresh mozzarella ($17)

·         Crushed tomato, hot oil, Italian tuna in olive oil, roasted peppers, onions, Pecorino, fresh mozzarella ($17)

·         Crushed tomato, house-made spicy Merguez sausage,  roasted peppers, caramelized onion, fresh mozzarella ($19)

·         Four cheese (Pecorino, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola) with lemon oil, shaved fennel and fresh oregano ($16)

·         White sauce, lemon sauces, crushed tomato, marinated anchovies, fried capers, fire roasted pepper, fresh mozzarella ($19)

·         Taleggio, fresh mozzarella, fig balsamic, truffled honey, Marcona almonds ($16)

                        Cheese-less: marinara, crushed tomato, garlic, oregano ($10)

This is not Mellow Mushroom or Gallo's, and probably not the place to take the 10 & Under soccer team after a game (unless you are seeking desserts).  The 'Mellow', Johnny's, and Gallo's are great choices for a traditional pizza pie, but when you seek a place for a specialty pizza,  glass of wine, and a delicious dessert with someone special, Alon's is the place. Just a five minute drive from nearly all of Dunwoody, Alon's is a place for you to add to the rotation.

This weekend I'll be preparing some picnic specials, firing up my  Medina River deep fryer and the new STOK grill.  Send me an email if interested in helping me drain a mini keg of Hoegaarden this weekend.  

Next week I'll visit a nearby Church's Chicken  Popeye's to sample some chicken and coleslaw in preparation for the new Church's Chicken that is replacing the now closed Arby's over in Williamsburg.

Dunwoody Independence Day Parade Grand Marshal

Congratulations to former mayor Ken Wright on being named Grand Marshal for the 2012 Independence Day parade.  The parade committee made an excellent choice.

L to R: Doug, Tom, Mayor, John, Adrian, Danny, Denny, Warren (Robert was out of town)

The former mayor will opt out of a convertible for this year's event, and has chosen a climate-controlled vehicle for the trek through Dunwoody.

Newly Purchased City Vehicle (donated by John Wieland Homes)

No post on a parade can go up without including at least one photo from the past

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dunwoody Resident Fran Millar to Seek Re-Election

Dear Fellow Citizens,

It has been my distinct honor to represent the people of Senate District 40 and I plan to seek re-election.

I presently serve on the Education (Chairman); Retirement (Vice-Chairman); Economic Development; Health and Human Services; Government Oversight; and MARTOC committees.

Significant accomplishments the last two years include co-chairing the Education Finance Commission. This past year we passed five pieces of legislation to improve how we fund K-12 public education.

I also authored the legislation to repay the federal government the money we borrowed to pay state unemployment benefits and it will also restore solvency to the unemployment trust fund. In fact, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce made me its May/June Business Champion for my work in this area.

I drew the original map that expanded the 6th Congressional District (Congressman Tom Price) further into DeKalb County.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve your interests. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and/or questions.

                                                Best regards,

                                                Fran Millar
                                                (770) 490-0213

DeKalb SPLOST Schedule Announced

Although only a draft, the DeKalb School System has put forth a draft of how SPLOST dollars will be spent in the county over the next five years.

Of note is nothing will be done at Peachtree during this current SPLOST.  Projections show a new middle school is needed (or an expansion at the least), but keep in mind SPLOST dollars are distributed equally to each board member's district, not distributed to where funds are needed to improve the schools and help the children.  After all, how can you pass a SPLOST referendum unless voters can easily answer the question, "What's in it for me?"

Expect four to six more trailers to arrive at Peachtree over the summer.

And the big ticket item in the Dunwoody cluster is the new Austin Elementary School.  The questions loom - when and where?  We now know the 'when' - ground breaking in March 2016 with a completion date of June 2018.  For those with kids in the Austin area, if you will have a kid in Pre-K next school year (August), your child will conclude elementary school in a new building, as a 5th grader.  For those of you with kids in Pre-K through 5th grade now, this means nothing.  For those of you with kids wearing diapers or pull-ups, what is your elementary school today may not be your elementary school when its time to send them off for a DeKalb education. 

One thing we know is Peachtree and Dunwoody will always be your kids' middle and high school (unless Chamblee picks up a few areas).  The middle school and high school are more important for your kid's development than the elementary school, but many in Dunwoody are fixated on elementary schools only for some reason. 

I don't see the new school being moved up in the schedule.  The superintendent wants to 'pay as we go' and all the new schools are pushed toward the end of the SPLOST project.  This allows the tax dollars to build up over the next few years.

Will the school system run out of SPLOST funds before the schools are built?  I doubt it.  I think the Accounting 101 lesson was learned this go around.  Of course a slumping economy could keep sales tax collections to a minimum and leave us with less money than projected, but I don't think that will occur.  The shortfall from last SPLOST was due to a failure to make (and account for) interest payments and it looks like the system will not be borrowing heavily on future collections (unless a new school board, after the next round of elections) changes its mind.

Back to Austin.  Where will it be built?  I expect it to be rebuilt on the same site, being built up.  The school system would have liked the old hospital site, but that 19 acre spot is now part of Project Renaissance and off the table.  Anyone else aware of 20 acres in the north Dunwoody area?

The Austin rebuild will affect more than the current Austin district.  No matter where the replacement school is built, we'll get to endure another episode of drawing of the elementary school lines.  I see some Vanderlyn and some DES students being moved to the new Austin and possibly new lines for Chesnut and Kingsley as well.  If by chance a new site is secured for a new Austin (south of Mt Vernon) expect a massive redistricting to take place.

The best answer is to keep Austin where it is, and build a new 'Austin' elsewhere in the city, perhaps in or near the PCID area.  This makes the best use of the money.  Replacing Austin for $20 million adds about 400 seats to an over-crowded cluster. That's $50,000 per new seat.  Build a new school (add $8 million for land and $2 million for old-Austin improvements) and you add 1000 seats at a cost of $30,000 per seat.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

DeKalb Animal Services Event is TODAY

Commissioners Elaine Boyer, Stan Watson, and Sharon Barnes Sutton  have joined forces to host an event TODAY, Sunday, May 20th from 5:00 PM until 7:00 PM to help fund a spay/neuter program for pets of DeKalb families in need of assistance. The event is at Stars & Strikes family entertainment center in Stone Mountain and will include bowling, laser tag, bumper cars, video games, etc. 

How can you help?   Purchase tickets at  Tickets are $30 for Adults, $20 for Kids under 12, or a Package of 4, any ages for $80.

You can also donate items such as leashes, collars (new or slightly used) & laundry detergent (which will go directly to DeKalb Animal Services for laundry needs).  The items will be collected at the event.

There is much to be done to reverse the horrible situation at DeKalb Animal Services & this is a step in that direction. To help get a handle on the massive number of animals euthanized annually in DeKalb (approximately 5,000) we need to educate the public more and provide assistance to those who have good intentions, but cannot afford to fix their pets.  

After hearing from many concerned constituents at the commission meetings and reading the influx of emails, Commissioner Boyer wanted to do something to help.  She consulted with several members of the Animal Services Task Force and the head of Animal Services and the consensus was that a spay/neuter program would go the furthest to help raise awareness and slow the inflow of animals into the shelter. The program will be implemented through LifeLine Animal Project, who is our partner on this endeavor.