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Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

DeKalb tax increase is inevitable

June 29, 2011 Comments off
The tax man cometh, and he wants to raise your taxes. I think by now most DeKalb homeowners know they are about to see their taxes go up. We knew this was coming, and the commission knew it was coming, but I guess they wanted to play the roles of friend to the homeowner when it comes election time. CEO Elllis knew it had to be dome, but he just didn’t ask for enough of a millage increase. So here we are about to get pinged with higher property taxes. The possibility of an additional penny for transportation ( got something about that coming too) a job and housing market that is anemic at best, and county services that are just as anemic. It is really becoming hard to justify remaining in DeKalb. The grass may not be greener on the other side, but at least it ain’t brown like we have in DeKalb.
Try to attend one of the scheduled public hearings on the millage increase whether you are for or against. Also check out the millage rate increases for the cities and the unincorporated areas.
Tuesday, July 5 (10:00 am and 6:00 pm)
& Tuesday, July 12 (10:00 am)
Location

Maloof Auditorium

2011

Rollback Rate

% Increase

Atlanta

10.39

8.938

16.25 %

Avondale Estates

15.41

13.464

14.45 %

Chamblee

13.71

12.223

12.17 %

Clarkston

15.06

13.242

13.73 %

Decatur

10.82

10.087

7.27 %

Doraville

13.60

12.607

7.88 %

Dunwoody

13.35

11.357

17.55 %

Lithonia

15.33

13.280

15.44 %

Pine Lake

15.61

13.541

15.28 %

Stone Mountain

13.90

12.980

7.09 %

Unincorporated

19.62

18.017

8.90 %

Countywide Debt

1.08

0.647

66.92 %

Unincorporated Debt

0.66

1.631

-59.53 %

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Proposed budget cuts gonna be hard for DeKalb residents

March 14, 2011 2 comments

Among the cuts probably headed our way according to AJC article:

Library to close

The library board voted to close the Scott Candler branch on McAfee Road. Other libraries will see reduced weekend and evening hours.

Cuts to police on the ground

A memo from Police Chief William O’Brien says he plans to cut 46 police officers, including the 40 vacancies the June academy was scheduled to fill and six new cadets

Closing precincts and response times

The chief is also looking at closing the Flakes Mill Precinct in south DeKalb and limiting responses to theft, fraud, harassing phone calls, vandalism, gambling and other non-emergency calls

Fire cuts personnel and stations

The fire department’s proposal calls for cutting 197 positions to privatize ambulance services. That includes 89 current employees and 108 vacancies. Of the 89 current employees, 83 are now in the fire training academy, according to a memo from Fire Chief Eddie O’Brien. He has also proposed temporarily closing stations 3 in Avondale Estates and 10 in east Atlanta during renovations

Dead bodies can wait

The medical examiner has proposed stopping weekend autopsies and storing bodies until weekday staff can handle them

More furloughs and layoffs

elections workers being furloughed 18 days and the voter registration office closing two days a month, except during October and November. Human resources, Planning, Geographic Information Services, and other departments have proposed layoffs

I guess they have trimmed all the fat and cut into the meat, now they are working on  the bone.

DeKalb budget strained by pensions; personnel

February 16, 2011 4 comments

I attended a public meeting on DeKalbs budget held by commissioners Elaine Boyer and Kathy Gannon on Tuesday. It was an eye opening experince as to why the taxpayers in DeKalb should be concerned in the next week or so. The county commission is scheduled to vote February 22nd on whether or not to approve or amend a 12% increase in property taxes that CEO Burrell Ellis has proposed. The CEO and others feel that a tax increase is the only way to balance a budget that started the year off 7 million in the hole.

At the meeting, a financial consultant laid out what is at stake when the commision votes. In his estimation, the county cannot continue down the path it is currently on. The worst case scenario showed the property tax digest falling once again in 2011 and personnel costs continuing to increase. In that scenario, the county would not be able to maintain services at the the present tax rate. Something will have to give. Either a tax hike, which many in the audience were against, more service cuts or massive overhaul of the benefits and pensions of county employees. when looking at the numbers, it is obvious that the pension system is killing the budget, along with the bloated payroll. I have posted in the past how the county has ignored the recommendations of a Georgia State University audit that said the county should eliminate or consolidate positions within the county government to reduce costs. That will address some of the short term pain, but a closer look at the pension system shows it is the 800 pound gorilla that no one wants to tackle. Because of state law, the county has to maintain a certain level of funds to pay out pesions to county employees. In 2011, the county is on the hook for nearly 50 million dollars so that the pension remains viable. But lets take alook at this pension. Way back in the day, government employees were compensated less than their private sector counterparts. To address this governments around the country gave their employees very gracious health and pension benefits to hire and keep good employees. Today, that system is bankrupting local governments, who have to continue to pay out benefits to retirees and help cover employees healthcare. Add to that the downturn in the stock and bond markets, and local goverments are finding it hard to keep pace with the required minimums set by law. So what is the solution?

In the private sector, when your 401k tanked in the last couple of years, you were on the hook for the losses. That is not the case for government funded pensions and healthcare. We the taxpayers have to foot the bill to ensure that DeKalb’s pension system does not go into default. So the 50 or so million dollar tab that the pension system needs to remain viable is passed on to us, the taxpayers. Raising taxes today will not solve the pension and benefits problem that will continue for years to come. If the county wanted to fix this, they could force employees into a private system such as plans similar to 401k where employees determine how much of their pay goes towards their retirement. Any future employee would be directed into this new pension formula thereby taking the responsibility off the taxpayer a placing it on the shoulder of the employee. The county could also ask employees to pay higher deductibles for their healthcare. High deductible plans are the path that many government and private sector employees are going to help balance their budgets.

Let me go on the record as saying I am not totally against a tax increase to help balance the budget. What I am against is the county asking me to send them more of my income to balance their budget when they have not trimmed as much fat as possible. Public safety should be their primary concern. Quality of life issues like libraries and parks may have to take a temporary cut, but if the county would address benefits and pensions, the cuts to quality of life programs would not be hit nearly as hard.

I encourage all DeKalb residents to contact their commissioners and tell them that they must act on health and benefits before they pass a tax increase. In this economy, few people should have to pass more of their hard earned dollars to the county, when the county has not put forth an effort to curb its spending.

Another budget town hall will be held at the Tucker Library, 5234 LaVista RoadTucker, GA 30084 on Thursday February 17th at 7 pm.

Want more info on the DeKalb budget? Check out these links

CEO’s proposed budget

BOC budget information

Budget Opinion

DeKalb County: State of the County Review

January 7, 2011 Comments off

Brookhaven Review: DeKalb County: State of the County.

CEO Ellis gave his annual State of County address on Thursday morning. It was an address to business and political leaders. Two biggies at the address were sewer upgrades and property tax increase. According to the AJC, Ellis says that the EPA mandated sewer upgrades will bring about 1300 jobs and bring a 5 billion dollar economic impact to the region. We will have to wait and see on that one. The CEO is also pushing for a tax increase. The county commission says no, but I wonder how long they can hold out. Something has to give. A tax increase, more service cuts or more layoffs. It is a lose lose scenario for everyone.

Proposed DeKalb budget for 2011

December 29, 2010 4 comments

Here is a link to the budget

This is the proposed budget from CEO Ellis. I read through the entire thing, and a few items jumped out at me.

Police officers that used to cover Dunwoody will be reassigned to other parts of the county. That’s good news, it seems the CEO realizes that public safety is priority one. Now I wonder how many officers will actually be patrolling other parts of the county.

Georgia State University did a study and recommended positions be eliminated or combined to reduce redundancy. The county eliminated just half of the GSU recommendations. If you read through the recommended cuts, they seem reasonable. After all does there need to be 3 deputy directors in sanitation.

GSU recommended the BOC reduce their staff by 10, roughly 7 assistants and some other support people. They eliminated none

GSU recommended the CEO cut 9 from his office, he cut 3.

Why are crossing guards part of police services? Should they not be the responsibility of the BOE. BOE has its own police force, they should be in charge of crossing guards as well.

The library system has some 300 employees. Do people really use libraries that often. I know I have not stepped into one since the mid-90’s. I am not saying that we eliminate them, but maybe reduce hours, especially in the summertime.

I love gardening and growing plants and vegatables, but the extension office may need to be reconsidered. I think it is a luxury more than a necessity.

The county Information Systems department should look at using open software in places where it can. It is hard for me to imagine paying licensing fees for employees who create spreadsheets, text documents, or do research via the web. I am sure that the county has plenty of servers on Linux, but I would like to see the county at least look at transferring their desktops to a version of Linux. This could save millions of dollars in license fees as well as support costs.

I cannot say with any certainty or proof that the county staff is bloated, but if the GSU recommendations are anywhere near accurate, then the county could still provide basic services while cutting an additional 400 plus positions. I hate to see anyone lose their job, but the county should not be a jobs program. If cuts need to be made to help balance the budget, let’s do it. I like that the CEO and the commission wants to balance the budget. If the county has done all it can to reduce waste and improve efficiency, then a tax increase will be reasonable request. The CEO should not ask any resident to pay any more in taxes if he hasn’t done all he can to eliminate waste and redundancy.

Categories: Budget, CEO, commission Tags: , , , ,

Late night musings

August 25, 2010 Comments off

No public cash for private developers

Connie Stokes and Kathie Gannon reportedly were the only two commissioners to vote in favor of the GM site redevelopment plan. What baffles me is that the entire commission was dead set against raising taxes to cover budget shortfalls, funding of public safety and infrastructure projects but were in favor of a tax increase to take what amounts to a gamble that if lost, the taxpayers would be stuck with the bill. I know the increase was minimal, but it is about principles. If you are willing to raise taxes to fund a private developer, why not raise taxes to fund items that make the county work. As for the 9,000 jobs this thing was going to create, I wonder how many would actually go to DeKalb or Doraville residents. If this thing was funded by private dollars, and the infrastructure could be paid for with out a tax increase, then this thing would have been a no-brainer. This would have turned into DeKalb’s version of the federal stimulus plan.

Not Surprised by nail salon manager

A store, no a nail salon in Lithonia charges a lady an extra 5 bucks because, in their opinion, she is too heavy for their chairs. Michelle Fonville was shocked and almost at tears according to her when she was told she would have to incur an overweight surcharge. Add to that a manager who basically told Fonville eff you, it costs me 2500 dollars to fix my chair because you sat down and broke it. The salon manger told Fonville to take her business elsewhere and even said that had she seen Fonville before she sat down, she would have refused to serve her based on her weight. all this on local TV no less. This does not surprise me at all. Stores like these consistently berate, and belittle the very people who keep them in business. This nail salon manager knows that her business will not suffer any ill-effects of this bad PR. It will be forgotten Thursday, and she will have a packed house on Friday evening. I personally will not give my cash to a store that berates or denigrates it’s customers. This should be a wake-up call. If they treat you like crap and you continue to give them money, what does that say about you. see video of Fonville here.

Hush Money??

DeKalb just can’t seem to stay out of the AJC’s line of fire. After the county rejected using pubic dollars to finance a private project, here’s this. The AJC reported tonight that former communications director Shelia Edwards (she accused NJ police of murder in the death of a friend) is getting a 46k severance to keep her mouth shut. I know these things are typical, even my company did it, but it seems odd they would give her severance and include phrases like not disparage the county, or not sue the county. Tells me she knows stuff that could at the very least embarrass some folks.

A quick note on Dekalb schools.

I talked with a teacher at a school that was recently built under the direction Crawford Lewis, Patricia Pope and others. This teacher told me the school is in terrible shape. Door knobs not working, ceiling tiles falling onto the floor, and leaky ceilings among other things. She told me that she can’t believe that all of the money earmarked for the school construction actually made it there. She told me plainly that she thinks Pope her husband and others took advantage of the school system and should be made to pay. That comes from a teacher who has a couple of decades in the profession. Also, attorneys for Dr. Lewis asked for a change of venue. They say the will be unable to get a fair hearing in DeKalb. If you are guilty, that evidence will follow you wherever you go. A change of venue will not change that.

Lastly, I have to weigh in on this mosque thing that seems to be captivating everyone. I do not believe that this is about reverence for a site that saw the deaths of 3000 people. There is nor reverence here. On the site will rise another structure praising the glory of capitalism. If it was a place to be revered, it would be more like the memorial at Pearl Harbor. In the end this is about hatred of all things Islam, after all it was the religion of Islam that caused the deaths 0f 3000 innocent souls. The idea of government not promoting or sponsoring any particular religion really means that Judeo-Christian principles rule the day, minus the Judeo part. These men and women, being citizens of the United States, have every right to build their place of worship wherever the choose, so long as it meets existing laws/ordinances, and does not infringe upon the rights of those around them.

Seized money to law enforcement

March 23, 2010 Comments off

2010-03-23_ITEMG2.PDF (application/pdf Object).

Tooling around the counties march meeting agenda, I ran across the above little nugget. It seems the county took a wire transfer of some half a million dollars from seized drug assets. According to the PDF the money is supposed to be used for law enforcement. I wonder how many of these monies the county gets on a yearly basis. Seized drug profits and the sales of confiscated property would plug a few holes in the Public Safety department, Don’t you think.

Categories: Budget, Police Tags: , ,