The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 on Feb. 28 to approve the substitute budget from its finance committee.
And or the first time since 2000, the board also approved the sale of $157 million in tax anticipation notes to fund county operations.
The budget was $12.4 million higher than the budget, CEO Burrell Ellis proposed in December, and $200,000 higher than the $559.5 million budget he substituted on Feb. 16 after finding extra cash when the books closed on the 2011financial year,
On Tuesday, commissioners assigned $7 million of this “found money” to reserves, bringing it up to $30 million.
The adopted budget does not call for a property tax increase but it assumes the state legislature will approve a hotel motel tax increase of up to 3 percent and increase Recorders Court fees.
Commissioners had criticized Ellis for including these two items, which could generate $3 million in revenues, before their enabling legislation passed.
Commissioner Elaine Boyer voted against the 2012 budget saying the county may find this budget too generous when the tax assessor provides the revenue projections this spring.
She said the CEO’s projected 5 percent decline in the tax digest was too optimistic.
“The CEO has a poor track record of projecting revenues, and it always winds up on the backs of DeKalb taxpayers,” Boyer said. “We should have held the line on spending over 2011, particularly since property tax revenues may decline again this year.”
Commissioners will set the millage rate in June or July after the tax digest is complete.
Commissioner Jeff Rader said said that some of the fund balance should have been used to reduce the millage rate.
The approved budget include $2 million in the Fire Fund to replace faulty air packs; $10 million to pay for health insurance claims that ran over the projected budget for last year; $512,000 for paving materials that the CEO had cut; and $500,000 to fund the tax commissioner’s satellite offices; $364,000 to bring senior services back to the 2011 level; $180,000 for a grand jury investigation of the watershed department; $150,000 for the board of equalization; and $188,800 reserved for animal control pending a task force report.
The new budget also removed funding for the public safety director from the police budget and moved three of five auditor positions from the finance department to the Board of Commissioners.
Rader, who also voted budget, said there would not be a manager for the transferred auditors since the board has not filled the internal auditor position yet.
Commissioner Stan Watson suggested the county look at outsourcing several services before the midyear budget adjustments, including animal services and Keep DeKalb Beautiful.
He also proposed an amnesty day for outstanding fines in the courts and tax commissioner’s office.
Watson said a blue ribbon commission could jumpstart economic development. The board did not act on Watson’s proposals.
Also on February 28, there were ten bidders for the tax anticipation notes (TANs), which will have to be repaid by Dec. 28. The county will receive the proceeds from the sale in mid-March to fund county operations until September when property taxes are collected.
The net interest cost was $290,276, far less than anticipated.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s bid offered the lowest interest rate, less than a quarter of a percent. Moodys gave DeKalb its highest rating for short term debt before the sale of the TANs.