The county’s $816.7 million budget sets aside about $5.2 million for “merit raises” based on positive performance reviews.
But commissioners aren’t subject to the same reviews as employees.
Elected officials can opt to take the pay increase or not. If they choose to get the extra cash, the raise would go to the Georgia General Assembly as local legislation and be subject to approval by the Legislature.
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said he won’t take the pay increase.
Lee says it’s up to voters to evaluate the commission’s performance.
“I believe that I have more than earned it,” Lee said.
Still, Lee says he wouldn’t take the raise until the millage rate falls to its pre-Great Recession levels.
Though the millage rate that sets property taxes would decrease under the proposed budget by 0.2 mills to 7.32 mills, it still hasn’t returned to its 2011 rate of 6.82 mills.
That 0.2 mill decrease is a savings of $6 annually for a home valued at $100,000, $14 for a $200,000 home and $38 for a $500,000 home.
The highest earning member of the Board of Commissioners is Lee who gets $131,231 annually. Southwest Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid is the lowest paid at $42,583. They also receive other perks such as a travel allowance.
Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb, and Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents northwest Cobb, agree it’s not a good idea to take a raise.
“As much as I think we need to recognize employees for the work they do, it shouldn’t be on the back of a millage rate increase,” Ott said.
Birrell echoed that statement.
“I think as an elected official, it’s not for the money you go into this to be a public servant,” Birrell said. “Even though it’s part-time pay and a part-time position, so to speak, it really could be considered full time with the amount of time put into it.”
Goreham, too, will stick with her current salary.
“As I did during the last budget time regarding commissioners’ raises, I elected not to receive a raise and I’d be inclined to do the same at this point,” Goreham said.
Cupid supports raises for employees but said it’s “difficult to substantiate” a raise for commissioners.
County employees who passed evaluations also received a 3 percent raise last year, and all commissioners turned down the raise.
The county’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and the proposed budget is scheduled for adoption on Sept. 10.
Water transfer raises eyebrows
Lee has proposed transferring about $18.2 million from the water fund to the general fund for the new budget compared to the $17.2 million the county is transferring from the water fund in the current budget. The general fund is what pays for most county services.
Critics say that practice could lead to higher water rates because taking away funds leaves the water system trying to catch up.
Birrell, northeast Cobb commissioner, wants to see Lee’s recommended transfer lowered, not increased.
She disapproved of the practice during last year’s budget process and says she again wants the county to have a plan for how it will stop the transfers.
“I’m asking that we reduce that by a percentage, at least a percentage, every year until it’s gone and we’re not depending on it any more,” Birrell said.
It’s a legal practice, she says. The county can take up to 10 percent from its water fund for its general fund under its approved financial policies.
Birrell has a problem with transferring the money that was paid by water customers.
She would not say how she’ll vote on the budget if the transfer isn’t lowered to her liking and said she’s looking at “everything really hard.”