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May proposes more cops, pay raises, no tax hike in 2014 budget

12/20/2013, 6:03 a.m.

More police officers, prettier neighborhoods, pay raises for county employees, jobs and economic development are all included in DeKalb interim CEO Lee May’s proposed budget, and all without a tax increase.

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Lee May

In his proposed $562 million budget sent to the Board of Commissioners on Dec. 13, May said the county’s total millage rate will remain at 21.21 mills.

He said the budget represents a substantial investment in the county’s strategic priority areas.

“With your approval, this proposed budget will help transform county government services and guide us in the direction that our citizens have requested by using our resources purposefully and emphasizing our collective goal for a high quality of life without a property tax increase,” he wrote to his former Board of Commissioners colleagues.

“We will live within our means and improve the services that our citizens expect from their county government, and invest in our work force by providing the tools and training for better customer service.”

May’s recommended budget is up $1.9 million from the current budget of $560.1 million.

In 2012, the county’s budget was $556.7 million.

May said public safety remains a top priority for the county. He plans to hire 160 police officers and 100 firefighters while reducing allocations for the Police Department by $1.1 million and Fire & Rescue by $1.02 million.

May said the police force loses officers faster than it can hire and the county has to get a handle on attrition rates.

“Over the past four years, we hired 277 sworn officers but lost 400,” he said. “We have gone from 1,046 sworn officers in 2010 to an estimated 892 to date. In Fire, we have funded positions that are unfilled.”

May also recommends a promotional pay increase of up to 5 percent – retroactive for one year – for sworn police officers and firefighters; tuition reimbursement of up to $5,000 with a commitment of one year of service for each year that tuition is reimbursed by the county; and the purchase of 100 new vehicles a year for the next three years for take-home vehicles for front-line police officers.

For his Operation Fresh Start 2.0 program, announced Nov. 21, May is proposing a total of $800,000 to clean and beautify streets and public rights of way; create gateways at seven interchanges on I-20, I-285, I-85 and U.S. 78; hire seven code enforcement officers; and implement a private property maintenance program.

The countywide beautification effort includes mowing six state routes once per month; quadrupling the mowing frequency for 36 key county roads from three to 12 times a year; using contracted street sweepers along major roadways; cleaning the curbs along key roadways; and increasing litter patrol teams.

May also proposes deploying a “Sign Posse” to collect illegal signs from intersections and key interchanges on a daily basis and a Potholes/Patching program to extend the life of the county’s roadways.

He also is recommending a 3 percent increase, effective July 1, for county employees who have not had a merit increase in five years and have suffered pay reductions through furloughs, unpaid holidays, and increased pension and health insurance costs.