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DeKalb approves $584 million budget for 2014 on unanimous vote

2/28/2014, 5:59 a.m.

— With the mandatory deadline to agreed on a 2014 budget at their heels, the DeKalb Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $584 million budget on Feb. 27 that provides funding for 160 new police officers and 100 new firefighters without raising property taxes and 3 percent pay raise for all employees.

By state law, the county must have a balanced budget on March 1. The 2014 budget is $23.9 million more than the 2013 budget of $560.1 million

It has no millage rate increase and restores the budgetary reserve to $47 million, emphasizes enhancements in public safety, economic development, community improvement and government efficiency.

The budget also restores pay increases for officers who are promoted and assumed additional responsibilities, and it includes funding for a take home car initiative for police officers. And for the first time in DeKalb’s history, a tuition reimbursement program for fire and police is included.

The budget, is up $23.9 million from the $560.1 million in 2013. It also provides funding for a new partnership with the DeKalb Development Authority to spur economic development and create jobs, and develop an economic development strategic plan to spur capital investment and foster an environment that leads to job creation.

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Lee May

Interim CEO Lee May said it wasn’t what everyone wanted but that they compromised.

“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,” he said.

The board’s Presiding Officer Larry Johnson said they made adjustments in partnership with the Interim CEO to benefit the taxpayers.

“We reached our goal of a prudent reserve,” he said. “We reduced headcount and we cut an additional $16 million in spending.”

Deputy Presiding Officer Stan Watson said it was awesome collaboration between the legislative and executive branches of government.

“The 2014 budget addresses continued delivery of services to DeKalb citizens without a tax increase,” he said.

Because of declining revenues from the collapse of the real estate market and high incidence of foreclosures, DeKalb has balanced the budget by reducing employees, including police officers and firefighters, paving fewer roads, deferring maintenance on government buildings and county parks; and furloughing employees. It also eliminated employee cost of living raises.

District one Commissioner Elaine Boyers said she was most pleased with the fact that the budget allocates the resources to analyze current government operations.

“We will finally get an independent assessment of the workforce and departments to determine the appropriate size of our workforce and how we can become more efficient in our operations,” she said.

The 2014 budget also includes funding for an interchange beautification program at several interstate exit ramps, cleanup major roads, implement regular sweeping and mowing schedules on right of ways and patch potholes and streets, and fund seven new code enforcement officers.

District 4 Commisioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said she is elated that they budgeted $750,000 in the Recreation and Parks Department specifically for youth services.

“I have been at the forefront of advocating for youth programs, to give our most precious resource, our children, something positive to aspire to as an alternative to the trouble young people get into by happenstance,” she said.