By John Schaffner

DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis has unveiled a $583 million budget for 2010, which anticipates a loss of about $50 million in revenue from taxes on real estate and consumer sales. The proposed budget is $23 million less than the county’s 2009 budget of $606 million.

Brookhaven residents will have the opportunity to have their say about the budget proposal at a Jan. 26 public meeting at Montgomery Elementary School, 3995 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Atlanta

Ellis plans to deal with the revenue losses by raising property taxes 11 percent and cutting nearly 760 jobs from the county payroll. He said revenue would drop to $552 million without the tax increase.

He is proposing an increase of 1.86 mills. A mill equals one dollar of tax per $1,000 of assessed property value. The current millage rate is 16.86.

Ellis plans to reduce the spending side of the ledger by about $30 million by eliminating 360 jobs that have been unfilled but remain on the books; and by offering early retirement to current employees. The budget proposal is based on 400 employees taking the offer. The early retirement would allow staff to retire without penalty before the minimum age of 50 if they have worked for the county at least 25 years.

Ellis cannot control which departments would lose the most seasoned personnel with the early-retirement offer. However, he wants to protect key services such as public safety. Much of the property tax increase – 1.25 mills – is dedicated to police, fire and other public safety services. But the budget breakdown shows a 4.3 percent cut to the police department.

Libraries are down by 3.7 percent, and the County Commission’s office by 12 percent. However, Ellis’ own office budget would increase 14 percent.

The 2010 budget now goes to the County Commission, which has until the end of February to adopt it. They they can make amendments to Ellis’ proposal. Ellis does have line item veto power over anything the commission might add.