$39M in excess taxes to fund proposed mid-year additions

During a mid-year budget update and public hearing June 22, Dekalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said due to the county’s conservative budgeting amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the FY 2021 budget is currently not experiencing any shortfalls. 

The county received an extra $39.6 million in tax revenues over its original FY 2021 projections said Thurmond, who is proposing that the county use those funds to invest in reopening the government and planning for the county’s post-pandemic future. 

“Because we do not have a deficit, all of our funding can now be invested in critical areas that will allow us to strengthen and reopen the county,” said Thurmond.

The proposed FY21 mid-year budget suggests putting extra dollars into public safety and violence interruption, parks, infrastructure, other resources to reopen the county including non-discretionary charges for workers compensation, health insurance, vehicle maintenance, and litigation costs.

Fund allocation includes $1.7 million for increased employee health insurance costs; $3.7 million in increased litigation costs; $7.5 million for increase workers compensation charges; and $2.5 in increased vehicle maintenance charges.

As the county has experienced an increase in crime during the pandemic, the mid-year budget proposes millions of dollars for a multi-pronged strategy to combat and prevent violent crime which includes training for law enforcement, personnel, new equipment, diversion programs, and the Police Athletic League (PAL). That includes:

  • $1.8 million for training, personnel, and equipment for DeKalb County Police Department
  • $472,925 for new standalone building, furnishing and equipment, transport van, and support personnel for PAL
  • $330,984 for additional personnel for the solicitor’s office to combat the rise in domestic violence cases
  • $250,000 for Project Pinnacle, a mandatory, one year in-court program offered by DeKalb County Superior Court for first-time, non-violent offenders between the ages of 17 and 25
  • $250,000 to support a school-justice partnership program with DeKalb County Juvenile Court and DeKalb County School System which aims to interrupt the school to prison pipeline
  • $250,000 for violence interruption initiatives for the district attorney’s office
  • $4.1 million for other public safety recommendations

In addition, the mid-year budget proposes $2 million to fund time-limited positions and other programs to help court departments to work through a backlog of cases that resulted from the pandemic. 

The mid-year budget also adds funding for parks and recreation, which county officials say supports crime prevention by proving an outlet for young people. The mid-year budget funds a variety of projects, enhanced maintenance and services, and increased security to keep parks and recreational facilities safe and clean. Proposed parks and recreation funding additions include:

  • $795,000 for PATH boardwalk repairs or replacement at Arabia Mountain, Mason Mill, Medlock, Hidden Acres, and Constitution Lakes
  • $227,000 additional funding for Sugar Creek Golf and Tennis Center ground maintenance
  • $200,000 for additional tree trimming
  • $112,647 for Kittredge pool pump and filter system repair ($112,647).
  • $65,000 to replace playground surface at Mason Mill Recreation Center

Regarding infrastructure, the mid-year budget includes a transfer of $8.1 million from the General Fund to the Sanitation Fund to support investments at Seminole Landfill, which is “one of the most essential assets that provides service for our entire county as well as surrounding areas,” said T.J. Sigler, the county’s director of DeKalb County’s Office of Management & Budget. The transfer will support both current capital projects and offsets capital expenses incurred in previous years, he said. 

In addition, the mid-year budget proposes:

  • $2.7 million for collection and control system upgrades for Seminole Landfill
  • $1 million to fund 27,000 95-gallon roll-carts to continue Sanitation’s Rolling Forward to One initiative
  • $572,180 for the Stormwater Master Plan

The Equalized Homestead Option Sales Tax (EHOST) will provide $129 million in property tax in 2021, which will give qualified homesteaded property owners a 100 percent credit for the countywide millage rates levied for the General and Hospital Funds.

“I believe this is the first time since EHOST was introduced that it would provide 100 percent credit for those,” said Sigler. 

The prospects proposed in the mid-year budget, are suggested to be funded through the additional tax revenue; However, the county is set to receive $147.2 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a federal COVID-19 relief bill. Thurmond plans to present the county’s ARP spending plan next week.

A third public hearing for the mid-year budget is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 13 via Zoom at the Board of Commissioners meeting.

 

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