DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond On SPLOST, Transit, Water Bills

Michael Thurmond has been in office as DeKalb County’s CEO for a year. He joined Denis O’Hayer to talk about the future of the county, including the recently approved SPLOST.
Credit Al Such / WABE

It’s been a year since former state labor commissioner and former DeKalb school superintendent Michael Thurmond was elected to be the new chief executive officer of DeKalb County.

Thurmond joined Denis O’Hayer on “Morning Edition” to talk about DeKalb’s recent SPLOST vote, expanding transit and the county’s reputation for mismanagement.

On how the SPLOST funds will be spent

“The SPLOST referendum will generate $600 million in property tax relief for residential homeowners in DeKalb County and provide $600 million in infrastructure: roads, streets and bridges. Of course it will be shared: 60 percent for the unincorporated, 40 percent roughly for our municipalities”.

On deciding where to spend the money  

“We did share and will continue to share information on the worst roads. That’s the highest priority. We’ll also be working with our municipal partners, and we’ll maximize and leverage the revenue generated, and we believe the amount of money will be significantly greater than that generated by the one penny itself.”

On how long before DeKalb County residents start to see repairs 

“Voters allowed us to issue $40 million in bonds, so that we won’t have to wait ‘til the sales tax revenue generates itself. We intend to go to work in January.”

On how DeKalb County is preparing for the increased traffic that comes with increased development

“Luckily, some 40 years ago, we had visionary leadership in DeKalb County, and we pioneered MARTA. That will help to allay some of the surface traffic that we’re facing. There’s an opportunity if the Emory annexation takes place, and if our good friends in the city of Atlanta can help finance this new Clifton Corridor, that will be an added advantage for us.”

On relying on state lawmakers or DeKalb County residents to pay for expanding transit

“I’m not ready to propose another half-a-penny sales tax increase for DeKalb. We’ll see how it plays out. We have to do what’s in the best interest of our citizens. Of course, I’m appreciative of the fact that there’s a growing sentiment that we need to develop a regional system and DeKalb will be at the crux if not at the backbone of that system.”

On addressing DeKalb’s backlog of inaccurate water bills

“We are dealing now with the bills that were most problematic. We’ve now been able to release about 34,00 of them. These that are left are the most problematic, and we’re going to have to vet these bills until we can get them right. Hopefully, we can get it done by the end of the year. That’s my goal.”

On addressing negative perceptions about DeKalb County leadership

“You have to be able to become more efficient and effective in delivering services and providing leadership for the county. The fact that 70 percent of the voters supported a SPLOST, something they’ve never done in the history of DeKalb County, tells me that people are confident about the direction we’re going in. We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but I believe that a majority of citizens see a difference in how we lead our county.”