DeKalb budget: Taxes steady but with more services

DeKalb County residents would see taxes hold steady next year but a host of new services and programs, under interim CEO Lee May’s proposed 2014 budget.

May released the $562 million proposal to county commissioners late Sunday, meeting a local deadline, although details are still being worked out. The draft obtained exclusively by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls for the county tax rate to remain at 21.21 mils and expanding services, including:

- Hiring 160 police officers and 100 firefighters, meeting a pledge May made to public safety workers last fall. The surge in hiring is designed to offset high attrition that has left hundreds of jobs unfilled.

- Hiring seven code enforcement officers to supplement the 25 now on the job for a county of 700,000 residents. Also as part of a literal clean-up, May plans to partner with the state Department of Transportation and private businesses to increase litter collection, mowing of roadsides and maintenance of key intersections.

- Increasing the county’s ethics board funding ten times over, to $118,000. The additional money will go toward professional services and training for the in-house watchdog that was cited as failing in a special grand jury report examining corruption in county contracts.

May, who had limited time in preparing the budget after being appointed in the interim slot this summer, plans to release more details about costs later this week.

As it stands, the proposal heads to the budget committee of the county commission for review. The commission is slated to vote on a budget early next year.

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