“I am proud that we have been able to work collaboratively with the board of commissioners to effectively address all of the key areas of need for DeKalb County residents without a tax increase, this year or next,” said interim CEO Lee May.
Since 2008, due to declining revenues from the collapse of the real estate market, the county has balanced the budget by reducing headcount — including police officers and firefighters — paving fewer roads, deferring maintenance on government buildings and county parks and furloughing employees as well as eliminating employee cost of living raises. The 2014 $584 million budget addresses all of these areas by reinvesting in several key areas.
In terms of public safety, the budget provides funding for 160 new police officers and 100 new firefighters, and restores promotional pay increases for officers that assumed additional responsibilities throughout the years. It includes funding for a take home car initiative for police officers. For the first time in DeKalb’s history, a tuition reimbursement program for fire and police is being introduced. These changes are expected to improve morale and mitigate attrition rates in this division.
The budget creates attractive communities by providing funding for beautification initiatives which include: increase cleanups on major roads, including street sweeping and increase mowing schedules on right of ways and parks. This funds resources to address potholes and street patching, as well as funding for seven additional code enforcement officers.
Additionally, a gateway and interchange beautification program will begin immediately to create a sense of community in neighborhoods and commercial districts. The budget addresses economic development by funding improvements for the implementation of a new permitting process, fulfilling the promise for DeKalb to be a more business friendly county. This budget also provides funding for a new partnership with the Development Authority of DeKalb County to spur economic development and create jobs, as well as fund an economic development strategic plan. Funding these initiatives will spur capital investment in the county and foster an environment that leads to job creation.
Furthermore, the budget fully funds the DeKalb County Board of Ethics to foster high ethical standards and strengthen the public’s confidence that the government’s business is conducted with impartiality, integrity and transparency.
Other budget highlights include:
-No property tax increase in 2014 or 2015
-Year end fund balance of $47 million
-Elimination of 75 positions from the CEO’s recommended budget
-Increased funding for libraries to for books and materials [$400,000]
-Three percent raise for all employees in a reserve account for appropriation — $3.3 million effective in July.
“This 2014 budget is lean, efficient and responsible, and it is reflective of the work our dedicated county employees have already become accustomed to — doing more with less,” said May.