DeKalb budget plan focuses on deficits and police

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond proposed a $1.27 billion budget Monday that eliminates deficits, cuts spending and gives targeted raises to public safety employees.

The budget is designed to shore up the county's finances without splurging on expensive projects, but it also distributes money to increase police officers' pay, demolish run-down properties and fund early voting for the 6th Congressional District runoff between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

“It’s a prudent and not splashy budget,” said DeKalb Budget Director Jay Vinicki.

The DeKalb Commission will review the budget, which maintains the county’s current property tax rate, before voting on it July 11.

The bottom line

The mid-year budget is about $27 million, or 2 percent, smaller than the $1.3 billion spending plan approved in February. Operations funded by property taxes are flat, but water, sewer, sanitation and airport spending is down more than 6 percent combined.

Thurmond recommended that the county government save all of its new revenue, $21 million, rather than spend it. That action will allow the government to reach a long-held goal of keeping at least one month’s worth of operational funding in reserve.

“Without a stable sustainable fund balance, it’s impossible to plan. It’s like a home without a savings account,” Thurmond said last week.

Much of the increase in revenue comes from the rising value of property in DeKalb, resulting in higher tax bills for some homeowners and businesses. Residential real estate assessments went up nearly 8 percent this year.

In addition, the budget erases a deficit that was part of the annual budget passed in February. That budget spent $25 million more that the county’s income for tax-funded operations.

Public safety pay

The budget dedicates $1.6 million over the last four months of this year to increase salaries for police, firefighters and 911 employees based on their experience and skills. Over the course of a full year, that expense amounts to $4.8 million.

While the raise is much lower than a 20 percent increase sought by public safety employees, Thurmond said he wants to prioritize pay adjustments for those who are underpaid compared to their peers.

Proposed expenditures

  • $425,000 for five early voting sites for the 6th Congressional District runoff June 20, as well as two early voting sites before the April 18 special election.
  • $2.1 million in additional police overtime pay to cover staffing shortfalls.
  • $1.2 million to remove litter, board up vacant buildings, hire code enforcement officers and demolish blighted homes. Federal funding will pay to remove several burnt-out buildings at the dilapidated Brannon Hill condo complex near Memorial Drive.