DeKalb considering bonus for sworn personnel

About 1,700 police officers, firefighters and other sworn workers for DeKalb County could soon see a bump in their paychecks.

The DeKalb County Commission agreed Tuesday to a one-time 3 percent bonus for all sworn personnel in the county for those earning between $37,700 and $60,000. The estimated $980,000 cost will come from the current budget’s fund balance if interim CEO Lee May approves the spending.

“A lot of crime is going on and they are going over and beyond,” Commissioner Larry Johnson, who pushed the bonus, said of the county’s law enforcement. “They do that every day for us. We can do this for them.”

The bonus comes on the heels of a 3 percent raise earlier this year, pushed by indicted CEO Burrell Ellis, which will use $2.36 million in taxpayer money to give 2,600 county workers who earn below the “living wage” of $37,700 a year for a family of three.

DeKalb last gave across-the-board raises in 2008. Employees from all departments have complained for years that health care increases and pension changes have eaten into those stagnant paychecks.

For police, though, there has also been a constant hemorrhage of officers. Despite several academies designed to train recruits and fill vacancies, the department consistently had less than 1,000 sworn officers in a department authorized for nearly 1,100.

“A raise is long overdue for all sworn personnel,” said Jeff Wiggs, president of the DeKalb Fraternal Order of Police. “It needs to be something across the board and address our need to retain veteran officers.”

May is also focused on the retention of officers as he readies the 2014 budget. He said he is still reviewing the current spending numbers to determine if he will sign off on the bonus, or delay action until a possible raise next year.

“We have to get more officers on the street,” he said. “That should be our first priority.”