The job of the county’s public safety director would be cut from the budget if one county commissioner gets his way.
During a meeting Jan. 26, Commissioner Lee May, in his list of possible budget cuts, recommended that $427,000 be cut from the public safety director’s office.
“That would be my entire budget,” said Public Safety Director William Miller. “That’s our entire office.”
Miller said approximately 98 percent of the budget goes to pay the salaries of Miller, an administrative assistant and two aides.
“We don’t have a lot of frills up here,” Miller said.
As public safety director, Miller oversees the police, fire rescue, animal services, E911, medical examiner’s and emergency management departments.
The aides, who each help handle three departments, help Miller “do the day-to-day management of those departments,” he said. “These are huge departments with several hundred employees.”
Miller, who learned of the possible cut from The Champion, said the idea is “disheartening.”
“I can’t think of anything negative I have brought to the county,” Miller said. “Everything is positive. Nothing is negative. It’s surprising that this would come out.
“All we try to do in public safety and in my office is to protect the citizens,” Miller said. “It’s disheartening that we have to face this every budget process.”
In 2011, the Board of Commissioners passed a budget in which Miller’s $150,000 position was unfunded.
During a press conference in February 2011, DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis voiced his support for Miller and the position.
“We’ve already lived through, in public safety here in DeKalb County, when police and fire are not communicating and working together,” Ellis said in February. “The public safety director brings us best practices to ensure that police and fire are working , but also he communicates with the courts, the judicial system, the sheriff, to make sure that comprehensively we’re addressing the public safety needs of our citizens.”
Two months later, in April, Ellis appointed Miller as the county’s E911 director with direct responsibility of E911 operations. Miller’s appointment was “another example of tightening our belts to keep expenses low,” Ellis said.
According the county spokesman Burke Brennan, Miller’s $150,000 salary is being paid from the E911 account under the police services budget.
During his tenure as public safety director, there has been a 10 percent decrease in violent crime and a 3 percent decrease in property crime, Miller said. He added that he is a champion for Marquel’s Pledge, a movement against celebratory gunfire, and is in the process of bringing a surveillance camera system to parts of the county.
“There are a myriad of things we are working on,” Miller said. “We’re trying to roll out as many innovative initiatives as we possibly can.
“In spite of the budgetary challenges, we are doing some amazing things,” Miller said. “We’re not going to stop working for the citizens of DeKalb County no matter what.”
The Board of Commissioners is set to adopt the 2012 budget on Feb. 28.