COVINGTON - County commissioners and other elected officials could receive a pay raise based on the county’s increasing population, but one commissioner said he’ll try to prevent it.
In Newton, county commissioner salaries are tied to the sheriff’s salary. In 2001, the Board of Commissioners set BOC salaries at 20 percent of the sheriff’s base salary. State law allows an automatic increase in salaries of constitutional officers once a county’s population meets certain thresholds, including the 100,000 mark. The U.S. Census Bureau population estimate for 2012 is 101,505.
Douglas said he plans to raise the issue at the board’s Aug. 5 meeting.
Douglas said the state has to certify that number at some point and when that happens, the automatic salary increase would occur. Since the sheriff would be subject to the increase and the commissioners’ salaries are tied to the sheriff’s, they would also get a pay raise, he said.
Information on what, if any, state agency certifies Census numbers could not be ascertained by deadline. The Department of Community Affairs supplies Census data online as a courtesy but does not generate or certify any numbers, said John Turner, division director of the Community Development Division at DCA.
“My goal is to include in the ordinance a provision that county commissions would have to take a public vote on any base pay raise rather than having it go into effect with no public discussion or vote,” Douglas said. “In other words, even if we left it coupled with the sheriff’s base pay, it could not occur until the commission had approved by a majority vote in a regular or called public meeting.”
The Citizen has requested the salaries for commissioners and the sheriff, but has not yet received a response from the county. Given the formula for determining commissioners’ salaries, it’s possible that no two commissioners make the same amount.
The base salary is 20 percent of the sheriff’s salary, which according to ACCG, should currently be $78,247.21 for a county Newton’s size. That increases to $80,819.51 once the population hits 100,000.
In addition to their base salary, commissioners have longevity adjustments of an additional 5 percent for each four-year term completed, with a maximum 30 percent adjustment.
Cost of Living Adjustments are also allowed and are set by the state. Cost of Living Adjustments were 3.5 percent for 2002; 2.25 percent for 2003; none for 2004; 2 percent for 2005; 2 percent for 2006; 2.89 percent for 2007; and 3 percent for 2008, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. There have been no Cost of Living adjustments after 2008.
Commissioners are also allowed miscellaneous expenses of $200 per month, considered by the IRS as income, and an educational supplement of 10 percent of their base salary for completing a training course to become a certified county commissioner.
Though there is no correlation between the fiscal year 2014 budget and millage rate increase and the potential raises, “the perception is out there that there is and so the timing is awful and we haven’t given our county employees a pay raise in a number of years,” Douglas said.