July 28, 2020
By: Dwayne Page
DeKalb County land owners will see no increase in their property tax rate this fall.
(Click link below to view pdf of 2020-21 county budget)
During Monday night’s regular monthly meeting, the county commission adopted the tax rate and consolidated budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year as recommended by the budget committee although a couple of budgetary line items were later eliminated by amendment ($15,000 for the county’s financial advisor position and $40,000 for the purchase of a new outdoor LED sign for the county complex). The county property tax rate will remain the same at $2.1235 per $100 of assessed value.
The tax rate will be divided among the funds as follows: *County General: $1.21.35 cents; Highway/Public Works: 0.04 cents; General Capital Projects: 0.9 cents; Debt Service: 0.13 cents; General Purpose Schools: 0.65 cents.
The vote was 12-2 adopting the tax levy resolution. Commissioners voting in favor were Jerry Adcock, Bruce Malone, Matt Adcock, Janice Fish Stewart, Myron Rhody, Beth Pafford, Anita Puckett, Jenny Trapp, Julie Young, Jeff Barnes, Sabrina Farler, and Scott Little. Commissioners voting no were Dennis Slager and Bobby Johnson.
Prior to the tax rate vote, the commission approved the 2020-2021 appropriations resolution on the consolidated budget by a vote of 9 to 5. Commissioners voting in favor were Jerry Adcock, Jeff Barnes, Sabrina Farler, Scott Little, Janice Fish Stewart, Matt Adcock, Beth Pafford, Anita Puckett, and Jenny Trapp. Commissioners voting no were Bruce Malone, Bobby Johnson, Julie Young, Myron Rhody, and Dennis Slager.
Slager had earlier offered an amendment seeking to have the budgets considered for approval by the commission individually rather than as one (consolidated) budget. “It gives us a chance to maybe not vote no on the budget as a whole because of things we don’t support. Voting individually on the budgets gives us an opportunity to support those things we do (favor),” said Slager.
Although he got a second to his motion, Slager’s amendment failed by a vote of 9 to 5. Commissioners voting in favor of the amendment were Slager, Myron Rhody, Bruce Malone, Julie Young, and Bobby Johnson. The others voted against it including Beth Pafford, Anita Puckett, Jenny Trapp, Janice Fish Stewart, Matt Adcock, Jeff Barnes, Scott Little, Sabrina Farler, and Jerry Adcock.
The commissioners later voted 11 to 3 to appropriate funds for various non-profit organizations. Commissioners voting in favor were Jenny Trapp, Anita Puckett, Beth Pafford, Myron Rhody, Janice Fish Stewart, Matt Adcock, Scott Little, Sabrina Farler, Jeff Barnes, Julie Young, and Jerry Adcock. Commissioners voting no were Dennis Slager, Bobby Johnson, and Bruce Malone.
The commission then approved a budget statement of individual funds resolution. Commissioners voting in favor were Sabrina Farler, Jeff Barnes, Scott Little, Jerry Adcock, Matt Adcock, Janice Fish Stewart, Myron Rhody, Beth Pafford, Anita Puckett, and Jenny Trapp. Commissioners voting no were Julie Young, Dennis Slager, Bobby Johnson, and Bruce Malone.
After passage of the consolidated budget, Slager moved to amend it by removing a line item of $40,000 from the capital projects fund for a new outdoor LED sign for the county complex and farmers market to advertise events there. Slager said the money could be better spent on repairing the parking lot at the county complex which is riddled with cracks and potholes. Although it was briefly discussed by the budget committee a few weeks ago, the parking lot issue came up too late to include in the committee’s budget recommendation for this year. Slager’s motion was adopted on an 8 to 6 vote. Commissioners voting in favor were Myron Rhody, Beth Pafford, Jenny Trapp, Dennis Slager, Bobby Johnson, Julie Young, Bruce Malone, and Janice Fish Stewart. Voting no were Anita Puckett, Sabrina Farler, Jeff Barmes, Scott Little, Jerry Adcock, and Matt Adcock.
The commission also voted to defund the county’s financial advisor position held for several years by Steve Bates. After adopting the consolidated budget which included the $15,000 for Bates’ services, the commission approved a budget amendment offered by First District Commissioner Julie Young to remove the $15,000 line item from the budget. The vote was 8-6. Commissioners voting to defund the position were Julie Young, Bobby Johnson, Janice Fish Stewart, Myron Rhody, Jenny Trapp, Dennis Slager, Matt Adcock, and Bruce Malone. Commissioners voting to fund it were Anita Puckett, Sabrina Farler, Scott Little, Beth Pafford, Jeff Barnes, and Jerry Adcock.
According to the budget, Bates is paid $15,000 a year for his services primarily to help the county prepare annual budgets. In past projects, Bates has also earned a commission for his involvement in the sale of bonds on behalf of the county.
“In 2019-20 the fiscal agent was paid $15,000 in December 2019 but another check was issued in March for $1,500 in 2020 but I don’t know what for yet,” said Young.
Young said she had no “personal ill will” against Bates but felt the county could get the same services free of charge through the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS).
Bates has been working for the county in this role as a contracted service for several years. He was brought in during the administration of County Mayor Mike Foster and has stayed on under County Mayor Tim Stribling.
After passage of the budget, Seventh District Commissioner Bruce Malone said he was concerned about the county’s spending. “I am appalled and maybe I am looking at the budget wrong but it seems to me that in a lot of areas there is a whole lot of fluff and money is spent in certain areas just because we have it to spend. Some of this money could have been set aside for future projects like a down payment on a school in a couple of years for example. It’s a shame we spend money just because we have it to spend. We should make some efforts to save and plan for the future,” said Malone.
Apparently bothered by Malone’s assertion about budget “fluff”, Fifth district commissioner Jerry Adcock proposed more cuts. “I want to cut more things from the budget to get rid of this “fluff” they are talking about like the Wolf Creek Fire Hall (seed money), the $12,000 fire hydrants for Wolf Creek, and the Alexandria Senior Citizen Center because we have one (senior center) already in the center of the county (Smithville) and to cut hours of the (solid waste) convenience centers”. Adcock got no support for his proposal.
Highlights of the 2020-21 consolidated budget include the following as recommended and approved by the county commission:
*The county is to receive a one-time local government grant from the state totaling $822,841 and the monies are to be divided equally to the capital projects fund ($411,421) to help pay for one-time budget requests this year and $411,421 to a general fund reserve “rainy day” account to be spent only as authorized by the county commission. County Mayor Tim Stribling said he wanted to save half of the grant money not knowing how revenues might be affected over the next year due to COVID-19.
*To continue meeting the requirements of the Federal Affordable Care Act, the county plans to increase its contribution toward employee health insurance from $315 to $355 per month.
*Funds to cover pay raises for county employees including the sheriff’s department and ambulance service staff who are stepping to a higher level on existing wage scales for their departments. State approved pay raises for county officials are also included in the budget.
*Board of Education: $1,000 pay raise per teacher (certified personnel) and a $500 increase per non-certified employee. Funds are included in the school budget for the purchase of 24.5 acres of property on North Congress Boulevard near Northside Elementary School for construction of a new pre-K to 2nd grade elementary school. The price is $18,000 per acre for a total of $441,000. The purchase is subject to a favorable TDOT traffic study. The school budget includes $500,000 of available funds to cover the land purchase cost.
*Sheriff’s Department and Jail: $165,000 to purchase and equip 5 patrol cars and $56,850 for tasers and body cams from capital projects fund.
*DeKalb Fire Department: An increase in the hourly pay from $10 to $12 for the one existing shared firefighter position to be funded at 40 hours per week for a total of $24,960; $10,000 (unspent from $12,500 allocated this past year) from the capital projects fund to complete upgrades and add restrooms to three firehalls; $75,000 from capital projects to meet a local match for a Community Development Block Grant which if approved would fund the purchase of another tanker truck.
*New Fire Station : $25,000 seed money from capital projects fund designated toward future development of a fire station in the Wolf Creek Community.
*Fire hydrants: $12,000 from capital projects funds to install two fire hydrants in the Wolf Creek community.
*Courthouse: $6,000 from capital projects fund to install electronic door opening capability at the first floor entrance to the courthouse to make it more handicapped accessible.
*DeKalb EMS: $155,000 from capital projects fund for new ambulance;, $18,000 from capital projects fund for generator at EMS building; $5,500 from capital projects fund for EMS portable radios.
*Solid Waste: $20,000 from capital projects fund for pickup truck; $50,000 from capital projects for pavement repairs at convenience (garbage collection) sites; and $55,000 to purchase a few new open top dumpsters and compactors.
*Highway Department: $93,000 from capital projects fund to purchase a pneumatic roller in doing work on tar and chip roads.
*County Clerk Office: $6,760 to fund digital scanning of all county legislative body (county commission) minute books to better preserve these records.
*Chamber of Commerce: Increase county contribution to Chamber from $17,500 to $25,000.