DeKalb CEO says proposed bonuses will not cost as much as initially reported

he county now says the cost will be far less than the initial estimate.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County commissioners have backed off an effort to curtail millions of dollars of additional pay for so-called front-line workers such as police, fire and sanitation.

The county now says the cost will be far less than the initial estimate.

The top budget adviser to DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond initially estimated that the cost of paying front-line workers a 50% bonus could run as high as $9.3 million a month.

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Now, Thurmond tells Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher that the county won’t come near that, but the bonus could cost taxpayers as much as $5.5 million a month.

“I want to say categorically that number that was broadcast or presented through the media is inaccurate,” he said.

Thurmond spoke at a virtual meeting of the county commission to consider whether to impose budget restraints on the bonus plan.

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The number reported by Channel 2 Action News last week came from a document prepared by Thurmond’s budget adviser.

The bonus is actually already in place for an estimated 3,500 county workers including fire, police, sanitation, water and several other departments.

But Thurmond said a one-day test showed the monthly cost is not likely to exceed about $5.6 million – 40% less than the initial estimate

County Commissioner Jeff Rader had wanted budget constraints on the plan.

"Is that test day going to be typical of the spend rate from that day forward?” Rader asked Thurmond.

“I don’t know. It depends on the spread of the virus,” Thurmond said.

Thurmond said the crisis is not expected to last all year.

“Some epidemiologists are predicting that the crisis will peak, that we will avert either late this month or early next month,” Thurmond told Belcher.

There was some wariness but mostly support for the bonus.

I just want to caution us, you know. We also have to think about the taxpayers who are losing their jobs, too. So, we've got a balance,” said county commissioner Nancy Jester.

“I’m for this pay. I think it’s something that we need to do. It will be looked at as a model,” county commissioner Larry Johnson said.

In the end, the vote to impose budget restrictions was set aside. Thurmond apparently had the votes to defeat it anyway.

The commission will revisit the bonus issue in late April.

Michael Thurman says he knows it will be expensive but is hoping it will not last too long.