MARIETTA — While there will be no pay raises again, Cobb County Government has recommended adding 44 new full-time employees as part of its proposed fiscal year 2013 budget.
The new hires, some of which are already in place, are a mixture of positions funded in the 2011 SPLOST, recommendations of the Citizen Oversight Committee and filling positions that previously lacked funding. The 2013 budget shows Cobb with 4,432 employees, up from 4,388 in the current fiscal year budget.
Among the jobs are 19 new firefighter positions. As part of his 20-minute presentation during the Cobb Board of Commissioners Tuesday afternoon work session, County Finance Director Jim Pehrson said these new positions round out the 33 firefighters that are being added — the first 14 were put in the 2012 budget — over two years.
In addition, new public safety and emergency management directors, both under public safety, will be hired. Filling those positions were recommendations of the Citizen Oversight Committee, a 10-member panel that worked for a year to find efficiencies and cut costs in county government.
The public safety director is being budgeted for between $101,587 and $165,651, while the emergency management director will be paid between $56,596 and $90,563.
Also being added is a new Public Services Agency director, with a salary between $96,803 and $157,809.
A new culture and recreation administrative supervisor (starting salary $38,355) will also be added, as will a risk analyst ($44,366). In addition, two judicial administrative techs in Magistrate Court ($25,896 each) and a client support analyst ($53,851) will be added in the coming year, though each of those additions will be partially offset by the elimination of one part-time position.
The budget also includes six SPLOST-funded Department of Transportation positions that were added since the 2012 budget was approved, as well as two more DOT jobs that are expected to be approved in the coming year.
Rounding out the additions are several other jobs that were approved in the past year. Two are in Superior Court, a custodian and a judicial administrative supervisor. Also already approved were an automotive tech, a property management division manager (which was met with the elimination of two part time positions) and a SPLOST-funded maintenance tech in property management.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee said part of the increase in employees was due to a commitment to add resources to the Cobb Police Department, while the county had to make up for some employees that left in other departments.
“We unfunded everything as part of FY ’12,” Lee said. “We had to go back and add positions. A lot of them were though board actions through the year which were justified. A lot of them were SPLOST funded or grant funded.”
With a lagging economy, Cobb hasn’t given employee pay raises since 2008, Pehrson said.
This year, some county government officials said their employees were suffering from low morale, while other workers were leaving.
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott was disappointed that the budget once again calls for transferring 10 percent of Cobb Water System revenue to the county’s general fund, which the county has done since 1998. Pehrson said that will be $20.6 million in the 2013 budget, up from $19.6 million this year.
Ott, the only commissioner to vote against the 2012 budget in September of last year, said he was also concerned that the county is filling positions without a county-wide reorganization plan in place.
“Yes we need to take care of public safety, but the board has been asking (County Manager David Hankerson) for a reorganization plan for a couple years now, and I think we need to do that before we start filling positions,” he said.
Cobb’s general fund budget, its primary operations, will see its budget drop 0.04 percent from the current fiscal year. A budget of $321.8 million has been proposed, which is down slightly from the $321.9 million adopted for 2012.
After increasing the millage rate by 15.7 percent to help fund the budget last year, commissioners voted 3-2 last month to maintain the rate of 11.11 mills.
After four years of decline, the county is projecting Cobb’s tax digest, the combined value of all real and personal property and registered vehicles in the county, to remain flat at $29 billion in 2013.
Lee, in his second year putting together a county budget, worked with Hankerson, staff and elected officials.
“My direction to them was to keep it flat or reduce it, that’s how it worked,” Lee said.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Board of Commissioners second floor meeting room at 100 Cherokee St. A vote is expected Sept. 11. The public safety department will also see four new police officers added.
The 2012-13 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.