DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes said Nov. 13 she’s frustrated over the county’s preliminary budgetary information for next year – specifically because she hasn’t been able to see it.
As the commission anticipates dramatic cuts, including layoffs, to the county budget (some say cuts could exceed $40 million), Stokes and other commissioners said they have asked to see departmental budget proposals that were submitted to county CEO Burrell Ellis in August.
Stokes and the commission’s budget committee said they demanded the information because they want to spend time preparing their own budget reduction scenarios before Ellis presents his proposed budget to the commission sometime before Dec. 15.
“We have been discussing strategies among ourselves,” Stokes told the county’s finance director, Mike Bell, during a retreat in Stone Mountain.
The commission requested departmental budgets from Ellis several times this fall to no avail, and Stokes said she was considering whether it was necessary to submit a formal public records request to Ellis’ office – something she said a commissioner shouldn’t be required to do.
“I don’t understand what the problem is,” she said.
She also wondered whether a records request would get the commission what it needed as well.
“Having a right to information and getting it, you know, is different,” she said to a chorus of laughter from commissioners and county employees.
Stokes comments occurred during early budget talks that included an overview of the county’s finances to date. A brief presentation showed county revenues up to October had fallen to $418.5 million this year, an 11 percent drop from last year. Revenues were at $468.6 million in October 2008. The county recorded decreases in service charges, fines, forfeitures, licensing and permitting – the collective product of a recessionary economy.
Expenditures were down to $462.2 million – a 6 percent drop from $489.4 million in 2008, data show. The county has routinely dipped into its reserves over the last four years to balance its budget. The county had $75.7 million in reserve in fiscal year 2006. That total has fallen steadily and is projected to land at $11.2 million this year fiscal year.