By Lee May
DeKalb County is moving in the right direction.
We are stronger and we are better governed.
Despite all the challenges we see in the news every day, we are turning the corner. We are turning the corner on strengthening and enforcing our ethics laws and truly reforming government. We are turning the corner on rebuilding our local economy that was devastated by the Great Recession.
We are now at a point where I am confident in our fiscal and budgetary management. This is why, for the first time in more than 10 years, I am recommending a cut in our millage rate, while at the same time increasing our rainy day fund to more than one month’s expenses in reserve.
We are also following through on a promise to help our men and women who protect us every day by funding body cameras for our police officers and increasing funding for firefighters and sheriff deputies.
This has not happened by accident. For nearly two years we have worked to restore the public’s trust. The best way to do that is to take care of the peoples’ money by spending responsibly and conservatively.
I have presented a mid-year budget recommendation to the DeKalb Board of Commissioners that includes the following:
Total budget across all funds = $1.4 billion with $102 million in budgetary reserves; Total tax funds budget = $630 million with $57.5 million in budgetary reserves; The .4 mill tax cut reduces our overall millage from 21.21 mills to 20.81 mills;
In our tax funds alone we will have 1.2 months of operating funds in our budgetary reserve.
All of those statistics simply means this: Our fiscal house is in order and the taxpayers of DeKalb are getting a tax break.
We are in this position as a result of controlling our spending and living by conservative budget principles, in addition to better than expected market conditions. The economy is moving at a pretty exciting pace and we should be proud of that.
This is just the beginning. I am going to continue to insist on budget discipline, cutting wasteful spending, balancing our budgets, and ensuring that the long- term financial outlook for DeKalb is sound and stable.
In addition to our finances, nothing is more important to DeKalb than protecting the people and giving our police officers the support and tools they need to do their jobs.
Police officers overwhelmingly support body cameras. It makes their job safer and their policing more effective.
The public also overwhelmingly favors the use of body cameras for police officers, because it better protects all stakeholders. That is why I am determined to provide our officers with the best technology and support that is available.
I have included $1 million to cover the first half of body cameras for all officers on the street, with the second half to come from federal matching funds or from the 2016 budget.
Our budget adds or restores necessary funding for fire and rescue, the sheriff’s office, courts and other law enforcement, parks, stormwater, information technology and our libraries.
Budgets are a matter of priorities, and these are my priorities.
We are on the right path. We are turning the corner. And, as our budget shows, we are making progress every day.
I urge the Board of Commissioners to adopt these recommendations, fund our key priorities, and begin the process of offering some tax relief to the residents and business in DeKalb County.
Lee May is the Interim CEO of DeKalb County.