Other commissioners praised Thurmond for being open to their input as they suggested changes to his December budget proposal after hearing testimony from department heads and feedback from the public. For example, the CEO proposed a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for pension retirees starting in July but agreed to make it retroactive to Jan. 1 after commissioners' feedback.
Some of the loudest critics of county government also praised the budget during a public hearing ahead of Tuesday’s vote, eliciting jokes and laughter from Thurmond and commissioners.
“Get ready to faint again because I find many bright spots in the budget,” resident Jerry Jackson said. “I certainly appreciate CEO Thurmond’s efforts to make our police and fire departments better.”
Here are the DeKalb 2019 budget highlights:
- 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for retirees in the county pension system, the first in 14 years and a cost of $2 million;
- 3 percent pay raise for 3,933 county employees who did not receive public safety raises in October;
- boosting the minimum wage for county employees to $15 an hour, up from $14;
- Funding of 60 new firefighter positions and 104 new police positions;
- $575,000 to renovate the lobby of the Maloof Building in downtown Decatur that houses the top levels of county government;
- $105,458 to fund two contract compliance officers in response to a recent audit of the county's Purchasing and Contracting Department;
- $100,000 in funding for a Charter Review Commission and another $84,000 to fund an incorporation and annexation study by the Carl Vinson Institute;
- $103,000 to fund an Interstate 285 East bus rapid transit study;
- $1.3 million to find new positions in DeKalb County state, probate and juvenile courts and the district attorney and public defender offices;
- $174,000 for a Memorial Drive revitalization study.