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Posts Tagged ‘2011’

DeKalb could lose two State Reps.

July 29, 2011 Comments off

That’s right folks. DeKalb, since it has grown slower than its exurban counterparts to the north will more than likely lose two of its state representatives to some far flung semi-rural backwater in the north Georgia mountains. That from the lips of district 90 representative Howard Mosby who was in attendance at the redistricting meeting held by Kathie Gannon in Gresham Park this week. Though he did not call it a rural backwater, Mosby’s speculation sort of mirrors what I posted last week about congressional redistricting in DeKalb. Power in the state house and Congress is leapfrogging the southern parts of the metro in favor of the far northern counties. From a political standpoint it means a smaller voice in the legislature. From an economic standpoint, it could mean fewer dollars for things like roads and transit. No details came forward as to which representatives would lose their seat, but Mosby did say that during redistricting, recently voted in members have an advantage. But that’s not all. Our school districts will go from nine to seven thanks to recently passed legislation. That means two members could be drawn out or forced to run against another incumbent. Again those recently elected have an advantage over those who have not faced a re-election since 2010. Those of you who wanted Cunningham or Copelin-Woods gone may have to wait for another election cycle. And finally, our esteemed board of commissioners will have their districts redrawn. District 5, Lee Mays dominion, is the largest district by size and population, so it will have to be cut down to help districts three and four become more balanced in terms of population. No one will be drawn out of the commission districts, though several are up for re-election.

As I was writing the above, the AJC posted what could be the first version of new congressional districts in Georgia. From what I can tell, DeKalb county will have three reps instead of four. It looks like David Scott in the 13th had the few thousand people in extreme South DeKalb taken away and put into John Lewis’ 5th district. As I was told by a politician recently, the 4th did slide further east taking in all of Rockdale, and some of Newton. From this map I cannot tell for sure if the 6th dipped further down into DeKalb, but it does look as though most of north DeKalb and North Atlanta are now in the 6th district. If this map holds, it looks like all three Democrats in Atlanta Metro are safe. I do wonder though if stretching the 4th all the way to Newton wouldn’t make the 4th a little more conservative, and give Hank Johnson a challenge for his seat. Of the three metro area Democrats, Hanks seat may be the least safe. Here is a copy of the map.

Screwed on taxes, Screwed on Education

July 14, 2011 4 comments

It has been a while since I posted, but there are two things that everyone is talking about and I want to chime in on both

Taxes

I think any of us with a functioning brain knew that DeKalb taxes were going to go up. I don’t see how it could have been any other way. I am no anti-government squawker who believes all government is evil, but I will say that unlike private sector companies, and unlike individual’s, governments just have to vote in order to increase revenues. They don’t need to take on an extra job, they do not need to change their product line or shift their marketing strategy. They just have to say yea and it’s a done deal. That is how I knew it was a done deal. And even when they lower taxes as a gesture of “we care”, it rarely equals the increase they forced on us in the first place. I believe that taxation is part of the societal contract that we have with one another. There are certain things, like public safety,  I do not want turned over to private enterprise, and the only way to pay is through taxes. I do want to see better management of the funds they do collect. Though the CEO touts he has cut some 100 million from the previous two budgets I think he can do a little more.  I wrote a post  last year about the Georgia State study that said DeKalb could shed nearly 800 positions and still provided a decent level of service to all citizens. I would like to see the CEO put those recommendation in place. He asked us to swallow an increase, the least he could do is trim the fat in county operations. Also, I don’t think it is coincidence that the three dissenters in the group are all up for re-election in 2012. Here is where I have to wonder about motives. Of course Boyer would vote against a tax increase, that’s her thing. But Barnes-Sutton and May make me wonder if they did the math and knew that they could dissent knowing that the increase would make it through, thereby giving them cover next year to say they voted against a tax increase. Barnes_Sutton may be trying to mitigate damage for the bad check scandal, and Lee May might have his eyes on an even bigger prize. It would not surprise me. The only one to vote for increase and is up for re-election was Kathie Gannon.

Education

Everybody is up in arms about the APS scandal and the cheating on CRCT tests by teachers and administrators. It is a sad thing when people we trust our kids education with would betray them and us in such a way. They have sent a decade’s worth of children into possible poverty, crime, and hopelessness. Not all of the children touched by the scandal will end up that way, but I cannot wait until the report or documentary comes out examining what happened to the children who attended some of the schools with the most egregious offenses. That brings me to DeKalb and South DeKalb in particular. At the same time revelations about APS started to bubble up, DeKalb also was in the mix along with a few other systems. In fact, the principal at Atherton resigned and was arrested for falsifying documents in 2009. Now there is no proof as of yet that the state or the media found any systemic problems in DeKalb, but that does not mean it isn’t a problem. I do know that local media are looking harder at all the systems who were in the original report, so do not be shocked if DeKalb gets hit by this wave too. In fact this open letter sent to the AJC by the DeKalb County School Watch blog  could stir up the hornets’ nest and reveal some unpleasant information. In the end, we do not know what these children would have done later on in their academic careers, but what these teachers and administrators did was to take from them the  possibility of  academic success. They passed them along knowing they were not properly prepared. These are men and women who turned their backs on the very children they were suppose to prepare for the harsh reality of real life. Instead of preparing them, they turned into a bunch of Judas’ and handed over these childrens future to the streets and ultimately the justice system.

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 %

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

Georgia tuition hikes coming for 2011

January 19, 2011 Comments off

Ah, where to start today. It has been a whirlwind of reports about the sad state of affairs in our education system. Atlanta schools are serverd a healthy dose of reality by SACS through accreditation probation, Moving APS closer to revocation. A teacher at DeKalb Schools writes a stinging rebuke of DeKalb schools and its reliance on top administrators and its inability to produce productive and competent members of society. DeKalb decided to increase the superintendents pay in a time of cutbacks and sagging revenues. But I wanted to tackle a different education issue. One that affects people statewide. The head of the University System of Georgia told a a group of legislators the following

Chancellor Erroll Davis told state budget writers Tuesday that it would take a 30 percent tuition increase to offset all of the expect cuts to higher education budgets, but Davis promised that wouldn’t happen. Instead, Davis told a joint hearing of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, the system will look for other cuts and ways to increase efficiencies to lower the hit to students and families.

Still, Davis said students and parents will likely be paying more for college by fall.

It is that last sentence that will likely have you paying more for a college education in Georgia. It seems that every year, parents and students are asked to take on a heavier burden to pay for college. I know some would rather see a tuition hike instead of a fee increase because tuition is covered by scholarships and some grants, but in the end, too many parents end up in debt and too many students leave college already in a deep hole financially. Many students could actually find themselves in financial ruin before they find a job coming out of college. So what do we do? Should we limit the number of students in our research and regional universities? This would take the pressure off those schools, but it may trickle down to the smaller schools. Maybe we should encourage more students to enter into community college for their first two years. Two year schools cost less to operate so costs could be contained and any student who fulfills his or her obligation at a two year institution can move to any four year school in Georgia without loss of credit provided you don’t make drastic changes to your major. Maybe raising standards at the the state’s universities will cull the number of  students thereby reducing costs for everyone.  With rising tuition, many students who work hard to maintain a solid GPA and do all the extra-curricular activities in high school that make their college application look good will find themselves unable to afford to take the next step in their educational careers. With tuition rising 79 percent in the past decade, it will be hard for low-income and lower middle-class folks to keep up. It may be wise for parents to go ahead and have heir child do community college first. It will save them a ton of money over the course of 4-5 years.

See a list of tuition costs at Georgia Schools

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: , , , ,