• DeKalb budget calls for departments to maintain 2011 levels

    By: Richard Elliot

    Updated:

    DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis presented his new budget recommendations Thursday, a proposal that does not include property tax increases, employee layoffs or furloughs.

    "I think we've got a good budget," said Ellis. "I'm hoping that the board will see this is a conservative budget that allowed us to live within our means, but at the same time meets the essential service needs of our citizens."

    Ellis' $547 million budget is a 1.2 percent increase over last year. The plan requires all county departments to operate at 2011 budget levels. While that doesn't mean a complete hiring freeze, county officials said any new hires will require justifications and high-level administration approval. The county is also exploring more ways to outsource services.

    Ellis acknowledged the past few budget years have been difficult on county employees.

    "The Administration also understands the hardship the recession has placed on the county's working families and public employees who have been called upon to shoulder a significant burden due to rising costs and budget cuts," said Ellis. "The actions have taken a toll on employee morale and will, over time, impede the county's ability to continue to reasonably deliver quality services."

    That's the main reason behind the decision to halt furloughs, layoffs and unpaid holidays.

    Ellis did state that this budget reflects his belief property values will continue to fall an additional 5 percent in 2012. That makes a staggering 25 percent drop in DeKalb property values since the Housing Market collapse.

    Some commissioners expressed relief the budget proposals did not include a tax increase.

    "We're encouraged that it doesn't anticipate an increase in the millage rate," said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader. "At least they got that right."

    Rader and other commissioners wanted a tax decrease after last year's increase. They also wanted to see more money earmarked for the county's reserve so DeKalb can hold onto its current bond rating.

    Commissioner Lee May said he still need to see the budget details. He said he also wanted to see more money headed to the reserves and a tax decrease, but he also said he wanted to avoid the contentious budget battles of last year.

    "We want to make sure this county is operating as efficiently as possible," said May. "I think the taxpayers deserve that."


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