Proposed Consolidated County Budget Includes New Spending But No New Taxes

July 21, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

New spending, No New Taxes

After several meetings over the past couple of weeks in a race to the finish line, the DeKalb County Budget Committee completed its work on the 2021-22 budget Wednesday night at the courthouse with the help of County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) representative Ben Rogers.

The consolidated budget includes pay raises for teachers and school support staff along with a particular group of county employees among others. New spending has added for another full time employee at the animal shelter operated by the DeKalb Animal Coalition and at the E911 Center. The ambulance service day truck operation is to be expanded to 12 hours a day, seven days a week with three new EMS employees.  The  budget committee even added new money for a variety of other projects including repairs to the Alexandria Senior Citizens Center building, which is owned by the Town of Alexandria but patronized by people from throughout the county.

While assessments have changed due to reappraisal, the county’s new certified property tax rate will be lower than last year dropping from $2.1235 to $1.7308 per $100 of assessed value but it is expected to generate about the same amount of local revenue as this past year.

The tax rate will be distributed to the various funds as follows:

County General: 0.9891 cents
Highway/Public Works: 0.0326 cents
General Capital Projects: 0.0734 cents
General Debt Service: 0.1060 cents
General Purpose Schools: 0.5298
Total property tax rate: $1.7308

The proposed budget will now be made available to all other county commissioners and a summary of the spending plan will soon be published as required by law. The commission will meet in a workshop on August 10 to review the budget and then convene on August 17 at 6:30 p.m. in a special session to adopt it. If needed, the budget could be revisited during the regular monthly meeting on August 23 at 6:30 p.m. but it must be adopted and sent to the state by August 31.

Budget highlights if approved by the county commission include the following from the School Budget, County General, Capital Projects, and Non-Profit Charitable contributions:

DeKalb County Schools:
*DeKalb County teachers, support staff, and bus drivers are to get the largest local pay raise ever in a single year as adopted by the Board of Education and recommended by the county budget committee for the 2021-22 year. If approved by the county commission the raise would be for $5,000 per teacher and other certified personnel (230 employees) and a $3,000 increase in pay for support staff (166 employees). Bus drivers will not share in the support staff raises but will be getting a pay hike just for them. Starting pay for bus drivers is to jump from $74 to $100 per day. Pay for bus drivers with five or more years of service is to go to $115 per day and drivers of special education bus routes are to earn $120 per day. Meanwhile all middle and high school head coaches and assistant coaches are to each get an increase of $715 in supplement pay. Money is also included in the budget to fund an assistant coaching position in nine sports programs at the middle school and high school where the head coach currently has no assistant coach.

Pay Raises for Particular Group of County Employees:
*A revision in the base pay of county employees who fall under two separate wage scales already in place. Both are 13-tiered plans including an administrative employee pay scale which tops out at 20 years and applies mainly to employees who work for elected and appointed county officials at the courthouse and county complex. The other plan tops out at 13 years and is for full-time library staff and senior center directors. Under the 20-year plan, the pay increases could range from $3,744 to $4,896 annually depending on years of service, while raises for those in the 13-year plan are to jump by $2,976 to $4,128. The total amount of the proposed pay hikes, including benefits, would add $129,703 in new spending to the county budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Custodians:
*Custodians who work at the courthouse and county complex will get at least a $3,000 pay raise according to their wage scale

Full Time Solid Waste Employees:
*Full time solid waste CDL drivers and laborers are to get a pay raise according to their wage scale

Judicial Commissioners:
*The three Judicial Commissioners are to each get a $1,000 per year pay raise. The salaries are to go from $12,900 to $13,900 per year

Juvenile Court Youth Service Officer:
*The Juvenile Court Youth Service Officer is to get a $4,000 pay raise

DeKalb Animal Coalition:
*Contribution of $39,805 to hire an additional full time employee with benefits at the animal shelter. The money is to go to and the employee is be hired by and under the control of the Coalition and not the county at the starting wage of $15 per hour.

Senior Citizens Assistance Senior Program:
*Total appropriation of $83, 179 including a $10,000 contribution to the Alexandria Senior Citizens Center (building owned by Town of Alexandria) for repairs to the facility

DeKalb Fire Department:
*Funds for 5% grant match to purchase 70 new sets of turnout gear and a 5% grant match to purchase a new Quint fire truck pumper equipped with a short aerial. Total local grant match for both projects combined is $43,214. If the grants are not awarded then the local grant match funding would not be spent.

*Another $25,000 in seed money ($50,000 total) is included in the budget to eventually build a fire department station in the Wolf Creek Community. The county first set aside $25,000 in seed money for the project in this year’s budget (2020-21). (Capital Projects Fund)

*Funding of $10,000 to add unisex restrooms at two fire stations (Blue Springs and Johnson’s Chapel). Rooms will be enclosed within the existing fire stations consisting of a toilet and pumping system to an outside tank. There will be no septic system. (Capital Projects Fund)

*Funding for a 45% grant match ($115,000) to purchase a new fire truck under the USDA Rural Development Facility Grant Program. The grant has been awarded. (Capital Projects Fund).

*Carryover funding of $80,000 already allocated but not spent from this year’s budget (2020-21) as a local grant match for the purchase of a new tanker under the Community Development Block Grant Program. The grant has already been awarded the county but the tanker has not yet been delivered. (Capital Projects Fund).

*Existing shared county firefighter position pay to increase from $12 to $15 per hour (total cost $31,200). No one specific individual holds the 40 hour per week position. Available county firefighters, who are trained and certified, rotate in and out of the position as needed. No one works more than 24 hours per week.

DeKalb Sheriff’s Department:
*Funding for the purchase of four new patrol cars with equipment package ($165,000)- (Capital Projects Fund)

DeKalb Assessor of Property:
*Funding for purchase of new pickup truck to replace 2006 model with 180,000 miles ($30,000)- (Capital Projects Fund)

EMS:

*DeKalb EMS currently operates with two 24 hour trucks (ambulances) seven days a week along with a day truck ambulance Monday through Friday each week from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.  The budget committee voted to expand the use of the day truck operation to 12 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the increasing demands. Three new EMS employees will be added to the staff.

*Funding for new four wheel drive EMS SUV ($30,000) to replace a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria with approximately 160,000 miles- (Capital Projects Fund)

*Funding for Stryker cot loading system on four ambulances at a cost of $25,000 each ($100,000 total)- (Capital Projects Fund)

*Pay raise for director: $2,000

Solid Waste :
*Funding for one and possibly two used pickup trucks ($20,000 total)- (Capital Projects Fund)

*Funding for purchase of possibly 4 dumpsters and 2 compactors ($75,000)- ($50,000 of which was already allocated but unspent from this past year)- (Capital Projects Fund)

*Convenience sites improvements including pavement repair ($50,000)- (Capital Projects Fund)

Fire Hydrant
*Funding for another fire hydrant in the Wolf Creek Community ($8,000). The first hydrant was funded and installed this past year-(Capital Projects Fund)

Courthouse and 911 building improvements
*Funding for repairs to 911 building ($25,000)- (Capital Projects Fund)

*Funding for outside surveillance cameras at courthouse and for a camera in the judicial commissioners’ office inside the courthouse plus other courthouse repairs ($20,000)- (Capital Projects Fund)

*Remodeling first floor courtroom of courthouse ($40,000)- (Capital Projects Fund)

DeKalb County Complex Digital Sign:

A total of $20,000 is budgeted for a new digital sign to be located near the DeKalb County Farmers Market for higher visibility to promote activities at the Farmers Market and County Complex. (Capital Projects Fund)

Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad:
*Additional contribution of $8,821 for fuel reimbursement to rescue squad member volunteers. (County already budgets $3,179 for fuel reimbursement)

*Additional funding of $3,500 to upkeep swift water rescue equipment as it wears out. (County has already appropriated $18,000 to equip and train 15 volunteers for a new swift water rescue task force this year. Total contribution to Rescue Squad- $38,321, up from $26,000 . The Rescue Squad, a non-profit organization, is not an entity of county government. The county appropriates funds each year as a contribution to the volunteer group.

DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (E-911)
* Additional contribution of $40,405 to fund another dispatcher position. The county’s annual contribution to the E-911 operation will increase from $119,595, to $160,000. Between the county, city, and E-911 district, four more dispatchers will be added (funded one each by the city and county and two by E-911) in order to have three dispatchers per shift (four shifts). The city and county each currently fund three dispatch positions and the Town of Alexandria provides funding while the DeKalb County E-911 picks up the remaining costs for dispatchers.

DeKalb Highway Department:
*Although the county will not be funding any additional local tax revenue, the county highway department plans to make use of the state and local tax dollars it has to maintain and improve roads and bridges as best it can. Plans are to add five new full time employees to the staff of 22. Five part time seasonal employees have also been employed this summer. Upcoming projects include a $1.1 million state aid bridge replacement over Sink Creek on Big Rock Road and paving a portion of Lower Helton Road which is expected to deplete the department’s current $600,000 state aid allocation and require an expenditure of about half a million dollars of the available fund balance. To keep from having to close them, the department will also be busy working on at least four other bridges over the next couple of weeks including two bridges on Roy Womack Road and two on Dry Creek using funds from the county highway budget. Several department funded tar and chip road projects are also planned.

Non-Profit and Charitable Contributions are as follows:
*Fire Prevention and Control-Tennessee Forestry Division: $1,500

*Other Public Safety-DeKalb County Rescue Squad: $38,321

*Regional Mental Health-Plateau Mental Health: $7,180

*Senior Citizens Assistance-Senior Program: $83,179

*DeKalb County Soil Conservation District: $38,927

*DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce: $25,000

*Imagination Library: $8,000

*Veterans Honor Guard: $2,000

*DeKalb County Fair: $5,000

*WCTE: $5,000

*UCHRA Assessment-Homemaker Aids, Etc: $9,245