Lee, commission should postpone ‘song-and-dance’ salary study
December 18, 2013 12:00 AM | 2015 views | 11 11 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Strike up the band! The Cobb Board of Commissioners is about to start a “salary study” song-and-dance routine designed to provide cover so it can hike county employees’ salaries.

And guess who’s paying the band? Yes — you the taxpayers.

The Board voted unanimously last Tuesday (and quietly, via the “consent” agenda in hopes it would fly under the public’s radar) to issue a Request for Proposals for consultants interested in conducting a salary study for the county at a cost likely well into six figures. The study would compare employee compensation here with what various other counties pay their employees.

Cobb would then adjust its salary schedule to reflect the differences.

The adjustments would only be in one direction: upward. We’ve never heard of a government doing such a study and then announcing it had been overpaying its workers, and then scaling back salaries and benefits accordingly. It won’t happen this time either. Mark our word.

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COBB COMMISSION Chairman Tim Lee argues the county has not performed such a study since 2006. And the county must keep its salary structure competitive with its neighbors in order to be assured of attracting and retaining the best personnel, he says.

But the economic landscape has changed tremendously since 2006. The results of that study and its resulting higher salaries were barely in place before Cobb and the rest of the country were swept by the steepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Cobb government had to enact deep cuts in services and in 2011 raised property taxes by 15.7 percent in order to make ends meet.

The economy is finally out of the recession, but it doesn’t much feel like it. The private sector is cautiously starting to wake up, but it has learned an important lesson, even if the public sector hasn’t: the economy can move in both directions.

Better economic times are not guaranteed, despite the rhetoric out of Washington. So most business leaders in the private sector thus are taking a cautious approach for now.

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The Commission has slowly begun trimming the property tax rate to reverse the earlier 15.7 percent hike, but still has far to go. Restoring the former, lower rate should be a higher priority for Lee than ratcheting up the salary scale on the backs of taxpayers.

And let’s not forget that Lee and Commission approved an across-the-board 3 percent pay hike totaling $4.5 million for county employees just last November.

As for Lee’s argument that the county has to keep competitive with its neighbors, that is true — but we and we think most readers would argue that we are still winning that competition by a wide margin. We have yet to notice any “draining away” of valued Cobb government workers to other jurisdictions.

And as every employer knows, salary is not the only factor that plays into employment decisions. Cobb government long has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for prudent management and minimal political meddling. And not only does it already offer competitive salaries for its staff, it also boasts strong benefits and a pension plan that should be the envy of many of the private-sector Cobb taxpayers now footing the bill for it.

An argument can be made that Cobb invests heavily in training its public safety workers and thus they are highly prized by competing jurisdictions; and so it is to Cobb’s benefit to pay them well in order to protect our “investment” in them.

But aside from that, and despite what Lee and the commission seem to think, we doubt many workers worth hiring or retaining are going to give up their Cobb jobs and start commuting to Forsyth or DeKalb or Fayette counties merely to see an extra $50 bucks on their paychecks.

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There may come a time when Cobb government employee compensation truly does begin to lag and affect our competitiveness, but that time has not yet arrived. And Lee and his Commission should postpone their song-and-dance salary study until it does.
Comments
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notsurprisedagin
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December 19, 2013
I recently spoke to my neighbor who is a cop about the Police Dept. He explained that people aren't seeing the the big picture. He explained that it costs almost 100k to train, equip and pay a new officer. That is assuming they can find good candidates. It would make more sense to give a 10% raise to a guy making 40k a year than blow 100k because you can't keep the folks you have. I'm not the smartest guy around but that is sound math to me. He made a comment I hadn't thought of. Nobody in government gets everything they need to do their job. It has always been a do more with less propostion. Now they are going to do alot more with even less than they have now because the stadium is coming. IMHO- we can pay now or pay alot more later to catch up...but we are going to pay.
Spuds
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December 20, 2013
You all are missng the point. The supposed 3% pay raise that everyone is complaining about is not just for Public Safety. The raise goes to every county employee, and whatthe public doesnt know is that MOST employees wont see a 3% raise. Most will recieve about a 2% raise if that. Some will get a little more than 3% because of the funny math that the County does when figuring out raises.

The bigger issue is "Pay Parady". A secretary employed for 5 years makes the same salary as the Police Officer, Fireman, and Sheriffs Deputy.

I'm not saying who should make more and who should make less but a secretary and librian should not be recieving the same salery and retirement as Public Safety.

The police department is loosing officers at a Critical rate, and with the Braves coming we need to increase the size of all public safety departments.

Officers are leaving the Best Police Department and County for lesser departments because they offer better saleries; they have an actual pay scale. Better benifits, shift differential pay, educational incentives, and take home vehicles. The health care plans are very similar just at half the cost that Cobb County employees pay.

The Board need to stop spending money on on Pay Studies that they dont listen to anyway and just fix the problem, "PAY PARADY". They need to take care of the employees who protect and serve the citizens of Cobb County better than any other County in Georgia.

Throw The Bums Out!
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December 18, 2013
I wonder if what's driving this study is the loss of hundreds of police officers in the past few years to the new cities in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Police administration and the County Commission have brushed off concerns about turnover for years, and now our department is full of brand new officers and jaded veterans. If they would just use the millions of dollars spent to train all of these new replacements for existing officers instead, there would be more stability in the department.

The idiots seem to think its okay to spend 50, 60, 70, 80,000 dollars to train someone new instead of spending that money on existing employees. I would have to imagine that the county has spent more then 20 million to train the officers replaced since the recessions started.

Maybe its time to retire the idiots in charge...
anonymous
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December 18, 2013
This editorial uniformant can't even see the loop he thinks he's in.
Hank Moody
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December 18, 2013
So tired of people commenting on this site with baseless speculations. "Tim is getting a bigger job at the Braves, this is not targeted at Rank and File employees..." None of these accusations have any basis in fact.

The MDJ feels that because there is uncertainty in the market that public employees don't deserve a raise? I think it comes more from the right wing mentality that a public servant is nothing more than a leech and deserves nothing.

Thank you to Cobb County Employees for doing a fantastic job of making this county one of the best in the U.S.
Sappho of Lesbos
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December 18, 2013
It is patently transparent that this gambit is MAI--made as instructed. The study will conclude that Cobb employees are "under paid," and that "Cobb will lose" this phalanx of "talent and experience" to other governments "unless pay is immediately raised."

But the real truth, in this era of chronic unemployment, is that Cobb would be better staffed if hiring were opened up AT EXISTING PAY SCALE.
Lib in Cobb
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December 18, 2013
Lee wants to get his buddies a raise prior to his accepting the new bigger job with the developer of the Braves money pit.
Lib in Cobb
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December 18, 2013
No matter what Lee and his associates are being paid, we as Cobb county residents and taxpayers are not and have not be adequately represented. The residents and taxpayers have not been given the opportunity to vote on the Braves money pit. The poll taken right here on MDJ came in as 2 to 1 against the deal. If the public is going to spend 300 million, I want more of a say. Put it to a vote.
Bob Cratchet's Lawye
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December 18, 2013
Thank God Bob does not work for you!

The county employees went 5 years without a dime of a raise (cost of living or merit) and they did so while maintaining the high level of service beyond that of other jurisdictions. Now you want to cry foul when the board wants to fairly compensate these people?

I pray you at least give your employees a decent amount of coal to keep your workplace tolerable!
anonymous
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December 18, 2013
Bob, the beauty of being a County / government worker is that you guys can survive and still be completely oblivious to your surroundings. Otherwise, you would be saying what lucky folks in the private sector are/have been saying for several years..."at least I still have a job".

Sadly, there are many in the private sector that have not been able to say even that 9" at least I still ahve a job") for all those five years you whine about county employees having not received a pay raise.

Count your blessings, dear whiney county worker.

Just Sayin'....
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December 18, 2013
Timmy must want another try at getting a raise!

Rest assured this is not targeted at the rank and file county employee. As mentioned, not many are going to take a hike across the river for an extra few bucks. As for their leaders, those that can will continue to "retire" from Cobb and find a new job somewhere else, essentially a nice way to get a substantial pay hike, and really who could blame them?
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