I’ve been tracking the issues with the DeKalb ethics board for a while, simply because I’d promised to hold a bake sale if the ethics board weren’t fully funded.
For the moment, it looks like I can put away the cookie sheets.
Interim CEO Lee May’s proposed budget more-or-less fully funds the ethics board. It also is a start at dealing with some of the more intractable problems in the county — a police force that is bleeding personnel, big questions about the impartiality of contracting and operational efficiency — particularly at the watershed department — and the move to incorporation by disgruntled residents.
Here are the highlights from a first pass through it.
No tax increase. “Our overall tax funds budget will total $562 million and the total millage rate in unincorporated DeKalb will remain at 21.21 mills.”
Ethics board is fully funded: “As Interim CEO, my goal is to foster high ethical standards for executive branch employees and strengthen the public’s confidence that the government’s business is conducted with impartiality and integrity. To this end, I am including in the 2014 proposed budget to fund the DeKalb County Ethics Board at $118,000 to pay for outside legal services, training for board members, and other operating expenses.”
A new “office of accountability” and an “office of constituent services”: The Office of Accountability would be responsible for Equal Employment opportunity and contract compliance. “This office will improve and enhance oversight to the Local Small Business Enterprise (LSBE) Program and restore public confidence in this program’s benefits and its contribution to economic development of small businesses. … Additionally, this office will be an independent office to facilitate evaluating employee grievances and concerns.” Similarly, the constituent services office seeks to “improve the quality of life at the neighborhood level. This is done by responding to citizen complaints, questions and requests in a timely and efficient manner.” Both offices will shift existing staff to new roles, instead of using new hires.
Retroactive 5 percent pay increase for cops and firefighters, 100 more take-home cruisers: DeKalb is bleeding cops. “Over the past four years we hired 277 sworn officers, but lost 400. We have gone from 1,046 sworn officers in 2010 to an estimated 892 to date. In Fire, we have funded positions that are unfilled.” There’s also $5,000 in tuition reimbursement on the table.
A 3 percent increase in pay for everyone else, contingent on an increase in the tax digest. “Due to budgetary constraints, employees have not received merit increases for the past five years. Pay was also reduced through furloughs, unpaid holidays, and increased pension and health insurance costs.” The proposal also calls for a 12-18 month competitive salary review.