by: Craig Lucie Updated:DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —
DeKalb County now has half a billion dollars in its 2013 budget, which includes dozens of new positions for the police and fire departments.
DeKalb County firefighters have been lobbying commissioners to have four firefighters on each of their trucks when they respond to a call.
The 2013 budget allows them to reach that number. They will also be able to hire more paramedics and EMTs to improve their response times. It's a big budget.
"The bottom line is $558,885,854. That's the budget we will be voting on today," DeKalb Commissioner Lee May told a packed room in Tuesday's commission meeting.
The budget easily passed. In a county where the mood has been negative for months -- with their CEO, Burrell Ellis, under investigation and Gov. Nathan Deal removing more than half the school board this is great news.
"I'm ecstatic. A 7-0 vote! That never happens. I'm ecstatic! I think the commission as a whole did a great job," Commissioner Elaine Boyer said.
For firefighters, the 2013 budget will make their job easier. It includes 44 new positions which would explain why they were hugging commissioners.
"Our manpower was down to the bare minimum, so this is definitely a step in the right direction for us," Kevin Kavanaugh explained.
DeKalb's police force will also get at least 25 new positions.
And both the police and fire chief aren't wasting any time in their hiring process.
"Both chiefs have said immediately after our vote they were going to HR to start enlisting them," Boyer said.
DeKalb County's Animal Control Services will get a nice upgrade, because the budget includes payments for a new animal care facility.
"I think this shows the people that DeKalb County government is serious about people business," said DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Zachary Williams.
Several residents had questions about new taxes prior to the vote. The budget originally had built in property taxes, but commissioners were able to pass it without new taxes.
"For us to pass a budget that doesn't increase taxes but maintains current service delivery level is a tremendous accomplishment, and I think citizens have something to be proud of," Commissioner Lee May said.