Cobb won’t see tax increase
by Ricky Leroux
August 27, 2014 04:00 AM | 4411 views | 13 13 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County Sgt. Ronnie Hyatt loads his department-issued rifle and other gear into his patrol vehicle during a shift change at Precinct 4 in east Cobb. Hyatt, along with Patrol Officers Blair Kelly and Vanessa Duncan, have to keep the issued equipment with them at all times, so they do a lot of transferring of gear at the beginning and end of each shift. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cobb County Sgt. Ronnie Hyatt loads his department-issued rifle and other gear into his patrol vehicle during a shift change at Precinct 4 in east Cobb. Hyatt, along with Patrol Officers Blair Kelly and Vanessa Duncan, have to keep the issued equipment with them at all times, so they do a lot of transferring of gear at the beginning and end of each shift.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
slideshow
Kelly adjusts his equipment inside of his patrol car Tuesday.
Kelly adjusts his equipment inside of his patrol car Tuesday.
slideshow

MARIETTA — The county’s finances have been approved for the next fiscal year and its police department will see an increase of about $3.1 million in funding to help with officer retention.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to adopt the fiscal 2015 budget at their meeting Tuesday night.

The budget does not call for an increase in taxes, does not cut any county services and reduces the amount of water transferred from the county’s water system to the county’s general fund by about $1.1 million.

Additionally, the budget estimates an increase in the county’s general fund by about 4.4 percent. The county plans to use a portion of the increased funds to give its employees a merit-based raise of up to 3 percent and create 35 new full-time positions.

The county expects the general fund to increase from about $325 million in the current fiscal year to about $340 million in fiscal 2015.

During the meeting, County Chairman Tim Lee said the budget supports the county’s staff and helps them respond to the needs of the community.

“Most importantly, there’s not a thing, there’s not a penny in this budget that doesn’t go to the execution of providing services and benefits to the citizens of Cobb County and the millions of visitors that come here each year,” he said.

During the meeting, Commissioner Bob Ott said he had two issues with the budget: the water transfer and funding for public safety. Ott said while he appreciates the efforts to reduce the amount of money transferred from the water system, which decreases from $15.5 million in fiscal 2014 to $14.4 million in fiscal 2015, he “would prefer to see it reduced at a quicker rate.”

The transfer from the county’s water system to its general fund, a practice which began in 1998, is used to help the county balance its budget. Critics say the transfer decreases the funds available for the water system, which in turn may cause commissioners to raise water rates.

Ott said his primary concern was public safety funding, however, and he said he would like to see more done to address the department’s issues
 sooner. “We talked about them being the number one priority, and I just think they need to receive more of our attention than they have so far. Retention has been stated as a major issue, especially in the police department.”

The east Cobb commissioner said he would encourage the department to give officers a retention bonus and hazard pay for more officers. Despite his concerns, Ott still voted to approve the budget.

“I voted yes because I wanted to make sure the men and women of public safety know that I support what they do and that I really do want to make things better. I do not think, as a board, we did enough,” Ott said.

Cobb Director of Public Safety Sam Heaton said when he was working on the county’s police improvement plan, which was unveiled on Aug. 6, he wanted the police improvement plan to be sustainable.

“My reasoning is ... we’re looking at a plan that’s going to go longterm and be sustainable. I understand, you know, a short term bonus or something of that sort would be great for any employee. But at the same time, that would be gone by Christmas, where what we’re putting together is going to be much more sustainable, in my opinion,” he said.

Portions of the police improvement plan released by the county on Aug. 6 are included in the newly adopted budget, including additional police vehicles and higher pay for overnight shifts.

The plan calls for the county’s police department to be fully staffed with personnel, vehicles and equipment by Jan. 1, 2017, which will require hiring 232 new officers.

Heaton said portions of the plan have already been implemented and financed by money in the fiscal 2014 budget, including funding for 40 new positions in the county’s police department and purchasing 55 new police vehicles.

He said he is glad to see more of the plan put
 in motion. “I’m excited that we’re able to move forward with some of these things. I think it’s going to have a positive impact across the board on all public safety,” he said.

Heaton said the fiscal 2015 budget will provide funds to increase the number of police academies the department offers each year from two to four and to purchase
 37 new police vehicles. Additionally, employees of the county’s police department, sheriff’s office, emergency 911 centers and animal control department will now qualify for shift differential pay, meaning they will be paid at a higher rate for working the evening and midnight shifts, Heaton said.

These public safety employees will receive an additional $0.50 per hour for evening shifts and $1 per hour for midnight shifts, according to the county’s police improvement plan.

The plan calls for $1.3 million from the fiscal 2015 budget to cover the cost of the shift differential pay.

The fiscal 2015 budget includes nine new public safety positions, Heaton said, including three police captains, a fire captain, two fire marshal inspectors, an animal cruelty investigator, a crime analysis coordinator and a senior crime scene technician.

Additionally, the budget will provide funding for Cobb Police Precinct 3, the southeastern portion of the county, to move to 10-hour shifts, four days a week, around May 2015, Heaton said, as opposed to the current eight-hour shifts. Precinct 2, in south Cobb, already has its officers on 10-hour shifts, he added.

Heaton said the police improvement plan calls for all five precincts to move to 10-hour shifts by the end of 2016.



Comments
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From what I hear
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August 28, 2014
@ yes it is fair

From what I hear at least 10 Police Officers have went to the Sheriff's Office this year and another 8 or so to the fire department. Its not the money, its how the management is treating those poor guys. They work their buts off and get yelled at for little silly things that crush morale. I bet the Sheriff and Fire Depts are glad to have those guys come over to them where they are paid the same but treated better at least. I have agree though, if you do for the police you need to do for the Sheriff. Getting a take home car is at least an 8,000 raise in the officers pocket putting them far ahead of the Fire Dept or Sheriff's Dept. I bet 90% plus of the officers live out of the county and that is something I as a tax payer am not consenting to. IF they live in the county, grudgingly OK, even though they are off, asleep etc and won't respond to calls anyway, but out of the county, heck NO!
Smyrna Powder Spring
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August 27, 2014
The police vehicles at the bank are on a part time job. As long as there is an available car then the officer is allowed to take the car to the bank. However, if that car is needed for the street they have to return it. That's why they use the van sometimes. Also, having the marked vehicle in the parking lot is an automatic crime deterant.
Big Dawg
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August 27, 2014
If the police are allowed take home cars but not the sheriff's office, you will see a mass exodus from the sheriff's office to the police department. I like the idea of take home cars for anyone who lives in Cobb County. Why should I pay for a police presence in Paulding County? Bottom line is money. All of these new police departments in Metro Atlanta have escalated the pay scale. Cobb Police and Sheriff's office are now paid below the going rate in Metro Atlanta. You people gripping about taxes??? Cobb has the LOWEST property tax in Metro Atlanta. Ya gotta pay to stay ahead of the game.

Cobb property owner
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August 27, 2014
With the Cobb County values again increased this past year - there will be additional money available without a property tax increase. Just hope for a better real estate market for the next few years.
Kennesaw Resident
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September 06, 2014
If our Cobb Board of Commissioners stopped having private taxpayers subsidize businesses by giving them pay cuts and special deals, then our taxes might actually decrease and there would be no need for SPLOST. Not that there is a need now for SPLOST.
Cobb Taxpayer
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August 27, 2014
Grand Jury Investigation - Great Idea by Marine Colonel Mike Boyce - most honorable !

The Cobb Board of Commissioners has lost most of its credibility and all of its transparency when it comes to the Braves secret and questionable "deal".

Ok commissioners what have you to lose with the facts being investigated ?

If not a total investigation then I suggest that all 5 of your offer your resignations for it appears that you are no longer interested in the affairs and finances of the taxpayers.
oh thats fair
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August 27, 2014
Officers will have to continue to take things out of their cars and transfer them. Do you really think they leave all their weapons and gear in their cars all night parked in there driveways? I sure hope not. I hope the whole take home car thing doesn't pass and if it does it should only be for officers who live in Cobb County, not Rockmart or Canton and the like. The PD is being bullies about this stuff. The Fire Department and the Sheriff's Office all need things too but no one is whining at the level the PD is. Everyone works hard in the county and has earned their place. Are the commissioners going to give fire and the Sheriff shift differentials and pay for degrees also? If not you will see a mass exodus from those departments as well. The police are trying to shore up take home cars to secure the lucrative part time jobs at the new stadium this is corruption at its finest, out in the open dressed as something else. They need the cars to work the part time jobs because the other cars will be on the road patrolling like they are supposed to do. I have never driven by a precinct and seen a lack of cars. But hey, what do I know I only pay taxes, live here and work here.
Readeverything
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August 27, 2014
oh thats fair,

Read the article again and see CCSD, Animal Control, and 911 employees will get shift differantial as well. Do some research on assigned vehicles and see how much money it saves. The vehicle program WILL be a huge asset when responding to incidents on a large scale as well as regular patrol. Response times will be reduced and placing a couple weapons in a vehicle at home takes a minute but waiting for a vehicle to return from shift can take a while. The vehicle must be unloaded, fueled, turned over and loaded but that does not include the time waiting for it to return to the Precinct. Part time work should be heavily regulated as far as vehicle use goes. Remember that FD has a tax that funds their operation where as the PD has to beg for the money.
Watcher...
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August 27, 2014
I constantly see a Cobb Police car parked, during most of the business day, in front of a bank on Atlanta Road, just north of the East-West Connector.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a Police car and a Police van parked, at the same time, in front of the bank.

I would like for Cobb's Police Chief to explain that misuse of Taxpayer property.

yes it is fair
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August 27, 2014
The problem is not parity between the police, fire and sheriff's department. The problem is that a large amount of the police department has left for other departments for money, cars, and other incentives. I am going to assume that you are either with fire or sheriff's office. So if you don't like it at either of those departments you are more than welcome to transfer to the police department.
anonymous
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August 27, 2014
You are right about the PD bullies. They have become so absolutely obnoxious about it. But, it seems to be the Chief Heaton and that obnoxious police union attorney Larusso that are making all the noise--and I am sure Tim Lee has a hand in it as well.

I say if the cops are unhappy in Cobb county, move on down to Atlanta/Fulton County. Same for Heaton et al.

The cops/LE community is looking a whole lot more like demanding members of the entitled moocher class, I hate to say.

hahahah
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August 27, 2014
@ Readeverything

To that guys credit, I printed the article out this morning and nothing about the Fire, Animal control or the Sheriff was in the article. I guess it was edited later which is kinda weird after someone posted on it. But at least its in there now. Instead of waiting they should stagger shifts getting on and off, but from what I hear they already do that to keep coverage on in the zones at all times. Im just afraid if the police over reach on the cars the county will hit them somewhere else later. Glad to see they get to go to more training. The Sheriff has a minimum of 4 training days a year and has been doing so for years now. Hopefully this raise will help out al of the county employees too.
Joseph Pond
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August 27, 2014
Vic Reynolds is not about to bite the hand that feeds him. He is part of the problem, not the solution....
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