By Ed Brock
Clayton County's newly adopted 2004-2005 budget includes the addition of 10 new police officers, but at least one county commissioner thinks there should be more.
Overall the county added 62 new positions while deleting four positions for a total cost of $2,400,788. The 62 positions include the nine in the police department and 10 more in the Emergency Medical Services.
Adding more police officers is an effort to make the county a safer place, said Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray.
"We're in a position now to put several more police officers on the road," Bray said. "We just want to make it so people see more policemen around and they can respond to calls more quickly."
County Police Chief Darrell Partain had requested 50 new positions.
"I do recognize that we need an increase in personnel in the police department to be more proactive in the community," Partain said. "I am however convinced that the exact number is still in discussion with the chairman."
Bray said he is working on getting more additional positions and may have something by August.
"By the time they get these 10 police officers added we'll hopefully be able to come up with something else," Bray said.
Commissioners Charlie Griswell and Virginia Gray voted against the budget. Griswell said he wanted the county to give the police department more officers.
"Our priorities are not in the right place in this county," Griswell said. "Here we are getting all these gangs and shootings and robberies and the police department doesn't have the personnel to deal with it."
Gray also said more police officers should have been added.
"I just feel like we have a lot of fluff that can go in other places," Gray said. "I'm not saying we should add 50 more positions, but I think we can add more than nine."
The "fluff" to which she refers does not include personnel from other departments, Gray said, but to material and vehicles. Also, she said the county might have to look at utilizing the police personnel it does have to the max.
Along with the 10 new EMS positions the county is adding a new ambulance, said Clark Stevens, the commission's administrative assistant. And four new positions have been added for the county's 911 services.
The county has a total of 1,800 full-time employees and 850 part-time employees, commission spokeswoman Suzanne Brown said.
Also, the starting salary for police and fire personnel has been increased to around $28,000 for trainees, and then around $30,000 after they are certified, Bray said.
"We were down some from the other metro counties so we raised the salaries for all public safety employees," Bray said.
At $131,012,689 the general fund operating budget for fiscal year 2005 is 1.8 percent larger than the previous budget.
Bray also said the economic forecast looks positive.
"From what we've seen it looks like the sales tax will go up," Bray said. "That's good news for property owners in the county."
When more sales taxes are collected the county can charge lower property taxes, Bray said.