All DeKalb County employees will get an across-the-board 3 percent raise come July as part of a $584 million operating budget approved by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners on Feb. 27.
The news is welcome relief to workers. County workers haven't had a raise in 7 years.
"We appreciate the 3 percent. After seven years we really do need it," said D. Gaither, one of several sanitation workers who urged commissioners to approve the increase.
Sanitation worker Sharlene Daniels echoed Gaither's sentiments.
"We've worked real hard for it," said Daniels.
DeKalb County unanimously approved the 2014 operating budget, which reflects no millage rate increase and restored the budgetary reserve to $47 million. The operating budget emphasizes enhancements in public safety, economic development, community improvement and government efficiency.
“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.
Presiding Officer Larry Johnson said the board worked closely with Lee and his staff to make adjustments that were beneficial.
“In partnership with the Interim CEO, we have made several adjustments which benefit the taxpayers of DeKalb County,” said Presiding Officer Larry Johnson. “We reached our goal of a prudent reserve; we reduced headcount and we cut an additional $16 million in spending.”
Deputy Presiding Officer Stan Watson said the budget reflects not only prudent cuts but a continuation of services without a tax increase to citizens.
“We observed an 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,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Stan Watson.
Since 2008, due to declining revenues from the collapse of the real estate market, 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 as well as eliminating employee cost-of-living raises.
The 2014 budget provides funding for 160 new police officers and 100 new firefighters, and restores promotional pay increases for officers that assumed additional responsibilities over 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, officials said.
“I am most pleased with the fact that this budget allocates the resources to analyze our 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,” said District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer.
The 2014 budget also provides funding for beautification initiatives which include: beautification of gateways to communities and interchanges in commercial districts as well as increased cleanups on major roads, including street sweeping and mowing schedules on right of ways and parks. The funds also will address potholes and street patching, as well as provide seven additional Code Enforcement officers.
District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said she is pleased that the budget includes resources for youths through the county's Parks and Recreation Department.
"I am elated that we have budgeted $750,000 in our Recreation and Parks Department specifically for youth services,” said Barnes Sutton. “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.”
The 2014 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.