DeKalb CEO proposes minimum wage increase, more police in 2018 budget

DeKalb County CEO Mike Thurmond has proposed a 2018 budget that includes a plan to hire 155 police officers and to increase minimum wage for county employees to $14 an hour.

The wage hike would affect 711 county employees, most of them full-time, at a cost of $540,000 in the upcoming year. Thurmond calls it the item in his proposed budget, submitted to the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, that he’s proudest of.

“It’s a moral issue, as well as it makes good economic sense,” he said. “We want everyone to share in the bounties and the growth and the prosperity that is DeKalb County.”

The total proposed budget is $603.3 million, down slightly from the $606.5 million budget approved for 2017. A vote is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Thurmond also recommended a 2 percent salary increase for employees who did not get more pay in 2016 when the county commissioned a compensation study. That will cost $2.8 million.

The other area of the budget slated for an increase in funding is criminal justice. Thurmond wants to spend $500,000 on a revamped recruiting strategy in hopes of hiring 155 DeKalb Police officers. The agency has struggled to hire and retain employees, and Thurmond said reversing that trend could also increase the number of women and minorities patrolling the streets.

“Because DeKalb has such a diverse population, I think that presents an opportunity for us to recruit qualified Hispanic, Asian and other minorities into the force,” he said.

Other highlights include $900,000 on programs intended to prevent juvenile crimes and $150,000 to train police officers on how to de-escalate situations involving people with mental health issues.