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DeKalb CEO includes salary increase for police, fire recruits in 2023 budget

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Trending

DeKalb CEO includes salary increase for police, fire recruits in 2023 budget

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond and Commissioners Larry Johnson and Steve Bradshaw hold their right hands over their hearts alongside public safety command during the annual 9/11 Memorial Remembrance Ceremony at DeKalb County Fire Rescue and Police Headquarters in Tucker on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond included a salary increase for police and fire recruits in the fiscal year 2023 budget.

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners approved the FY 2023 operating budget on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

The budget includes $4.3 million to raise the starting salaries for police and fire recruits and provide increases for veteran public safety personnel, according to a press release. The $4.3 million prorated funding for these salary increases will come from existing FY2023 police and fire rescue budgets.

This salary increase maintains DeKalb’s status as one of the highest paid police and fire recruits among large local governments in the southeast and the state.

“Our ability to recruit, hire and retain the best sworn personnel is essential to maintaining the quality of life in DeKalb County,” Thurmond said.

The county has also contracted with Epic to be able to promote the county’s police and fire department’s across the United States through Epic’s electronic platform.

“We have positioned ourselves to attract the most talented, the most skilled and the most dedicated men and women to DeKalb, not just from the next county over, but we are going to be attracting men and women from around this nation to DeKalb County to make sure that we keep the citizens and residents safe,” Thurmond said during the board of commissioners meeting on Feb. 28.

Additionally, Thurmond proposed increasing the minimum wage to $17 per hour for county employees.

Beginning April 1, the starting salary for new police recruits will be $55,000, which is an 8.9% increase over the current salary of $50,500. Overall increases will affect sworn police officers up to and including the rank of captain.

Also starting on April 1, the starting salary for new firefighter recruits will be $51,000, which is a 9.7% increase over the current starting salary of $46,500. Overall increases will affect sworn firefighters up to and including the rank of captain, as well as emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

The total budget is $1.74 billion for FY 2023. Thurmond’s priorities for FY 2023 are public safety; retention, hiring and training strategy; community health and wellbeing; beautification and placemaking; and sustaining and improving county owned assets.

Thurmond added that the county is projecting to end 2023 with a $200 million surplus, which is the largest surplus the county has seen. In 2023, the county will provide over $165 million in property tax relief.

“In the midst of this, while we were balancing budgets and making critical investments, we were also providing a historic amount of property tax relief to the ad valor em taxpayer,” Thurmond said. “Often times, people focus on SPLOST in terms of what’s being spent, but let me tell you what my priority is – using the EHOST to provide ad valor em tax relief for our citizens.”

T.J. Sigler, director of the DeKalb office of management and budget, gave a breakdown of Thurmond’s budget priorities, beginning with public safety.

“We have funding for 222 vacant or new positions for the police department,” Sigler said. “We have funding for 158 vacant positions for fire rescue. There’s $5.4 million for vacant positions for the sheriff, as well as an additional $2 million for overtime. That was part of the amended budget. Also included in the amendment budget is $1 million for the year two Emory Hillandale violence prevention program.”

Other public safety budget items include:

– Summer Youth Programming – $700,000 reserve for appropriation for summer youth programming added via amendment by FAB Committee and $100,000 increase in WorkSource Summer Youth Employment Program

– Superior Court – $600,000 to continue violence prevention programs

– Code Compliance – $547,204 to hire and equip six new Code Compliance Officers to implement and enforce video surveillance ordinance that was adopted in December

– District Attorney – $475,861 to create a SB440 unit to address increase in violent felonies committed by juveniles; $350,763 to create an evidence unit; and $90,800 to fund salaries for the firearm violence prevention unit

– Solicitor – $396,684 for four additional investigator positions

Under retention, hiring and training, about $8.4 million is budgeted to provide a 4% cost of living adjustment for county employees.

Some of the community health and wellbeing budget items include allocating $800,000 to purchase and equip five vehicle mobile integrated health units for the fire department, allocating $250,000 to the Clarkston Community Health Center, and budgeting $50,000 for a school-based counseling pilot program.

Other items include funding for meals at senior centers, funding 13 vacant and new positions at the senior centers, funding to expand the residential treatment center for women experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder. About $1.85 million has been allocated for parks for therapeutic programming, adaptive recreation, facilities improvements, additional recreational programming, five new positions and other operational enhancements

“Under beautification and placemaking, the amended budget includes $1 million for continuing gateway and corridor improvements, as well as $500,000 for neighborhood improvement grants,” Sigler said. “Planning is receiving $655,000 for grant matching funds, small area plans and other various studies, as well as an additional half a million dollars for the zoning code update.”

Other beautification and placemaking budget items include $967,750 for vehicles and equipment and $300,000 for grounds maintenance, and $6.6 million for vehicles and equipment, funding for 115 vacant and new positions and other operational enhancements

“Under Sustain and Improve County Owned Assets, we’ve identified $47 million for capital projects across all the various funds in the operating budget,” Sigler said. “That includes funding for improvements of the county jail, funding for renovations at the courthouse as well as IT solutions and sanitation capital projects among others. Outside of the capital improvement projects, there’s also $3 million across multiple departments for computer and technology upgrades. We’re adding vehicles to the county fleet across all the various departments.”

About $265,000 is budgeted as well to purchase and install 46 electric vehicle chargers and at the department of watershed’s Roadhaven Drive facility.

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