DeKalb County’s police force is woefully understaffed and underpaid. Currently, DeKalb has 1.4 officers per 1,000 residents. The national average is 2.7 officers per 1,000 residents.
As a result of DeKalb’s inadequately staffed police department, wait times for an officer to arrive at the scene of an incident that is not a dire emergency often can exceed 30 minutes.
Commissioners Burrell Ellis, Elaine Boyer, Jeff Rader, and Kathie Gannon recently sponsored a sensible proposal to boost pay for sworn officers by 8% and add 127 new officers to the DeKalb County Police Department. Their proposal would be funded by trimming non-public safety functions of the county government by 1.25%.
Commissioners Larry Johnson, Lee May, and Connie Stokes voted against that proposal, saying they favored a property tax increase by way of a millage rate hike in order to fund the police positions and pay raises.
The Ellis-Boyer-Rader-Gannon proposal prevailed on a 4-3 vote. However, CEO Vernon Jones vetoed it, claiming that he was carrying out “the will of the people” in supporting the Johnson-May-Stokes proposal for a property tax increase.
The will of the people??? On what planet?
As Commissioner Boyer points out: “Since Jones became CEO, the county’s budget has grown more than 54 percent while the county’s population has grown about 29 percent.” Moreover, a recent audit of county contracting practices uncovered a troubling pattern of structuring no-bid contracts in amounts just below the competitive bidding threshold to the same vendors for the same services over and over and over again. As a result, our county government has paid millions of dollars to vendors in violation of competitive bidding safeguards.
An attempt to override the CEO’s veto could occur as early as this Tuesday’s county commission meeting. In order to override the CEO’s veto, five votes are required. To reach five votes, one additional vote is needed from among Commissioners Johnson, May, and Stokes.
Please call or e-mail these commissioners today. Their contact information is as follows:
Commissioner Larry Johnson, District 3
Commissioner Lee May, District 5
Commissioner Connie Stokes, District 7
County spending has grown in excess of the rate of population growth plus inflation. Meanwhile, important areas such as public safety have not kept pace. The Ellis-Boyer-Rader-Gannon plan would rein in the county budget while setting the right priorities for our community.