The stalemate over abolishing vacant county positions continued last week even as county commissioners began setting their priorities for the 2012 budget.
On September 13, DeKalb County Commissioners voted to defer the administration’s resolution to abolish 250 vacant positions until September 27 to allow the finance committee to discuss it this Tuesday. Commissioners have contended their budget intent resolution on July 12 eliminated all vacant positions except those involving outstanding job offers.
Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner told the finance committee on August 23 there were 663 vacancies as of June 30. These included 475 positions (or 71.6 percent) that come under the constitutional officers, the courts and public safety. Commissioners want department heads to justify why their vacant positions should be restored.
Stogner had proposed amending the budget intent resolution to say the board intended to abolish only the 250 positions but that resolution was withdrawn on August 23.
“You abolished positions and then funded positions [in the midyear budget adjustment on July 12]. The second vote negated the first,” Stogner told the commissioners on September 13.
The commissioners also voted last week to restore 127 vacant sworn officer positions in the police department and postponed a decision on 35 other vacant police positions until September 27. Earlier on August 23, commissioners voted to restore 71 vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Office.
In other action on September 13, DeKalb commissioners also voted to withdraw a resolution authorizing the issuance and sale of tax anticipation notes. The notes would have had to be repaid by the end of this year.
The commissioners also approved a new employment contract with Stogner with a term ending December 31, 2012. Stogner’s old one-year volunteer contract that provided no salary expired September 14.
Under the new agreement, Stogner will receive a gross salary of $16,039 per month from September 15 through the end of this year. In 2012 Stogner’s gross monthly salary will not exceed $16,039 in any month and his total salary will not exceed $96,234. He will be limited to working six months or less in 2012.
Stogner said last Tuesday afternoon he had opted to continue to work as executive assistant under the provisions of a Home Rule amendment to the Pension Code adopted after the county’s early retirement program. The commissioners adopted the amendment in August 2010 to facilitate the part-time, temporary rehiring of retired county employees with valuable institutional knowledge.
The Pension Code amendment allows a retired DeKalb employee to work for the county part-time while receiving pension benefits after August 31, 2010. However, the employee is limited to working 1040 hours in a calendar year and his county salary or wages cannot exceed 50 percent of his last pre-retirement annual base salary. If the retiree exceeds the hours worked or salary, his benefits would be discontinued for the remainder of the year. The amendment also limits the temporary work to three years, which do not have to be consecutive.
The finance committee last Thursday began drafting a new budget priority resolution for 2012. The draft said they oppose a tax rate increase but the millage could increase in one fund if offset by a decrease in the millage for another fund. It also called for two new special tax levies and tax funds for libraries and for independently elected offices, such as the courts.
The resolution encourages the CEO to include some new features in his December 15 budget proposal for 2012. These include estimated tax bills for typical homesteads and a complete list of full-time positions in the 2012 budget. The draft priorities resolution also urges the CEO to include the abolition of all positions held vacant since September 15. It also called for each major tax fund to have a one-months reserve at the end of the next fiscal year.