DeKalb 2017 budget relies on deficit spending

DeKalb's government will spend $93 million more than it takes in this year, according to the county's proposed budget.

“The economy is up and these aren’t recessionary times, but we're using reserves for everyday expenses,” said DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester, the chairwoman of the Finance, Audit & Budget Committee.

The county’s deficit spending figure drops to $53 million after excluding one-time costs for vehicle replacement and watershed projects. About $25 million of the deficit is in tax-funded operations that elected officials have the most control over.

Commissioners said at a budget committee meeting last week the county needs to adjust its spending and services.

“This doesn’t look like a sustainable budget,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader.

Despite the deficit, DeKalb’s budget will still balance by using some of its reserve funds.

The budget calls for the county’s tax funds to finish 2017 with $33 million in savings, which is $17 million short of the county’s goal of having one month’s worth of operating funds in reserve.

DeKalb's budget is strained by $17.2 million for employee pay raises approved last year, $10.8 million for Traffic Court, property tax exemptions and the recent incorporations of several new cities.

Overall, the county’s $1.3 billion proposed 2017 budget is 5 percent smaller than last year’s.

The DeKalb Commission is reviewing CEO Mike Thurmond’s recommended budget before voting on it at the end of this month.