One DeKalb County commissioner is proposing shutting down the north precinct of the county’s police force as a way to save money in next year’s budget.
The move would be symbolic of the county government’s lessening influence in the northern portion of the county. With the formation of the city of Dunwoody in 2008, the creation of a city of Brookhaven this year, and a potential annexation by the city of Chamblee later this year, the area patrolled by DeKalb County Police Department’s North Precinct would be greatly reduced.
“If you look at the map of the North Precinct, all but I think two small areas … will be left in the precinct outside of municipalities,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader, whose district includes much of Brookhaven.
The unincorporated areas joining the cities of Brookhaven and Chamblee are expected to take a large chunk of tax revenue with them when they go into the cities. DeKalb officials have discussed moving the precinct to a new location near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
Rader, who proposed the idea of closing the North Precinct, said a $40 million shortfall is expected in the county’s budget as a result of the incorporation and annexation in north DeKalb.
“It’s been my goal to at least get this issue on the table and see what it could do to help us avoid a tax increase,” Rader said.
Rader said there are no hard numbers yet that indicate how much money closing the North Precinct could save.
“One of the things we need to look at is the degree to which we could cut overhead associated with a separate physical structure and command staff,” Rader said.
Rader said the county would need to think about whether to cut the officers from the North Precinct or reassign them to the county’s other four police precincts.
Mekka Parrish, the public information officer for DeKalb County Police, declined to comment on how closing the precinct would affect the department.
“There’s so many variables, at this time I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to jump in the fray,” Parrish said.
She said the department will continue to work with the Board of Commissioners through the budgeting process.
“We work with them and ultimately the decision is made by them,” Parrish said.
Fiscal year 2013 begins Jan. 1. CEO Burrell Ellis must present the Board of Commissioners with a budget by Dec. 15 and the commission will vote by the end of the year. A millage rate must be set by mid-2013, Rader said.
Rader said his proposal to close the North Precinct has been met favorably by other commissioners.
Rader is hopeful that eliminating one-fifth of the police department’s infrastructure will save the county a significant amount in next year’s budget.
“That will make a major contribution toward cutting costs without having an impact on the patrol strength,” Rader said.
But Rader said it may not be enough to make up make up the shortfall.
“This is just one element of a larger imperative to cut our budget,” Rader said.