New DeKalb Budget Adds New Police, Firefighters

Feb 27, 2014

DeKalb County Commissioners answer questions following their approval of a new budget.
Credit Lisa George/WABE

 If you live in DeKalb County, you are likely to see more police and firefighters on the beat soon.

Hiring more public safety officers is part of the budget county commissioners approved unanimously Thursday, but that unanimous vote does not mean all commissioners are happy about the new spending plan.

 The new budget provides money to hire 160 new police officers and 100 new firefighters.

The spending plan also allocates funds to increase staff and services in other areas, according to interim county chief executive officer Lee May: “We’re hiring more code enforcement officers,” May announced as he walked commissioners through the budget Thursday morning. “We’re filling more potholes. We’re doing beautification efforts. We’re picking up litter at an advanced level than we’ve ever done before. So I think you see some tangible investments in this budget.” 

There will be no millage rate increase, but the budget includes spending cuts totaling nearly $11 million, what May called strategic across-the-board cuts.

Commissioner Jeff Rader believes there will be unintended consequences from adopting this spending plan. “Anytime that you apply across-the-board actions in any area, there are going to be differentially feasible based on the departments,” said Rader before casting his vote in favor of the budget. “Some departments are small. They comprise exclusively staff, and they’re not going to be able to accomplish their function in accepting these cuts.”

Among the cuts is more than $800,000 from the Sheriff’s Department, which drew protest from Sheriff Thomas Brown, who will leave that post Friday to concentrate on his Congressional campaign.

Commissioner Rader proposed, and several commissioners agreed, that revisions to the budget would need to begin almost immediately.

The budget does include a 3% across the board pay raise for county employees, but that money will be held in reserve, and commissioners will decide whether the county can afford to pay those raises when they review the budget this summer.