A hiring freeze is now in effect for all vacant county positions except police recruits, according to an April 19 memo from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to county department heads.
Ellis stated that the move was necessary because “the county currently faces a number of issues that can have a substantial budgetary impact on both the 2012 and 2013 tax fund budgets.”
Those issues include the possible incorporation of Brookhaven, the proposed expansion of Chamblee and annexations by Avondale Estates, Decatur and Doraville, according to Ellis’ memo.
“As a result of the magnitude of the issues and their potential impact on the county tax funds budgets, I believe that it is necessary to implement a number of actions at this time to place the county in a better situation to address the potential financial developments,” Ellis stated.
Ellis also directed the county to “create a contingency reserve of 2 percent” by cutting each department’s current budget. The reserve funds will remain in each department’s budget, according to the memo.
Department heads have been directed to develop contingency plans to cut their 2012 budgets another 3 percent and an additional 5 percent for 2013, according to Ellis’ memo.
That contingency planning could lead to a 2013 budget cut of up to 10 percent, according to Richard Stogner, the county’s chief operating officer.
Stogner told the Board of Commissioners’ finance committee April 17 that the budgetary belt-tightening is part of the county’s “ongoing efforts to continue to impose financial discipline in regards to our expenditure rates.”
“So far through the first quarter we’ve been doing pretty well in maintaining our budgetary balances,” Stogner said.
Ellis also asked the county’s elected officials that supervise county staff “to consider undertaking the same steps to conserve the county’s financial reserves and to prepare for potential adverse impacts of the issues facing county government.”
“We must be in a position to respond to the potential severe financial constrains that may develop over the next six months,” Ellis stated. “It is only prudent to develop appropriate contingency plans over the next several months.”
Ellis’s financial contingency plan comes before the release of the county’s tax digest of property values in late May or early June. The 2012 county budget of $559 million assumes a 5 percent drop in property values.
County commissioners have asserted for months that the drop may be greater.
Commissioner Elaine Boyer wants Ellis’s administration to look at the county’s service delivery.
“Let’s say we lose Brookhaven, and we’ve lost Dunwoody, we’ve lost probably over 100,000 people that we do direct service for parks [and] police,” Boyer said. “Wouldn’t we change how we deliver services?”