In September, the Cobb Board of Commissioners passed an $816.7 million budget, setting aside about $5.2 million for merit raises.
For the county’s employees, the fate of their salary is in the hands of a performance review done by their supervisor.
But commissioners are another story.
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.
All commissioners say they won’t take the pay hike, but Cobb’s local delegation will consider raises for elected judges today.
Chairman Tim Lee, who made $131,231 last year, says he won’t take a pay increase until the millage rate, which sets property taxes, is lowered to its 2011 rate of 6.82 mills, where it stood before Lee led the charge to hike property taxes.
Under that September budget, the millage rate was lowered 0.2 mills to 7.32 mills.
That 0.2 mill decrease was 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.
“I made a commitment back when I raised the millage that I wouldn’t participate in any pay raise until the millage is back to where it was before I had to raise it,” Lee said.
He said it’s too soon to say if the millage rate will be decreased again this year, but he’s optimistic the county is on the right path.
“The budget we adopted for 2014 has a reduction already built in it, and if things continue to get better we might be able to advance that,” Lee said.
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said there are more pressing issues, such as improving the county’s public safety department, that must be tackled before commissioners even think about taking a raise.
Cobb’s previous public safety director, Jack Forsythe, resigned in a scathing Jan. 6 letter in which he accused County Manager David Hankerson of blocking his efforts to help a police force that, he said, lacks the resources to keep the public safe.
Northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell and Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham both say their pay is enough.
“When I was elected it was for a specific amount, a salary, and it is considered part time,” Birrell said. “To be honest with you, I’d rather see our staff and employees be eligible for a raise than for it to come from the elected officials.”
Goreham also said her paycheck is plenty. She makes the most of the district commissioners at $46,066.
“I still feel that for myself, as an elected official, I’m serving at the will of the people to do the will of the people,” Goreham said. “We do get paid at a part-time rate, and at this point I still feel that it’s a sufficient pay scale.”
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, of southwest Cobb, makes the least of all of the commissioners at $42,583. She took her seat on the commission just one year ago and said it would be premature for her to accept a salary increase.