Commissioners approve pay hike for employees
by Jon Gillooly
November 28, 2012 12:45 AM | 14776 views | 41 41 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee (MDJ/File)
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee (MDJ/File)
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MARIETTA — County employees will receive a raise for the first time in five years thanks to a Tuesday night vote by the Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners also took steps to reduce the property tax rate by 0.2 mills and kill a proposed January water rate fee increase.

Commissioners approved the across-the-board, 3 percent pay hike, which amounts to $4.5 million, in a 4-1 vote with Bob Ott opposed. The money comes from the county’s medical and dental account.

Ott argued the money should be given in the form of a one-time bonus rather than a pay raise that the county is obligated to maintain.

“We don’t know what funds will be available in the future,” Ott said. “Yes, there are some economic indicators that show recovery. However, in light of upcoming changes to the tax laws and health care, the county needs to ensure those indicators remain strong before committing to a permanent change in the salary structure.”

Lee said he had been assured by “leading economists” that such a pay raise was sustainable.

“They don’t believe that it will have any effect on the Cobb County operations and our ability to meet our projections,” Lee said. “It is my belief that we have a sustainable budget for the next five years to be able to absorb this as part of the operating (budget). Moreover, though, I will make a commitment that if we get to the end of the fiscal period and there’s issues concerning the FY14 budget that perhaps makes it difficult to keep it funded, I will make the necessary cuts, and I will make the necessary reductions in services and positions to enable us to continue to move forward without any kind of revenue enhancement.”

Lee said the raise would be funded for fiscal year 2013 out of the medical and dental fund and then as part of the county’s operating budget after that.

In separate action, commissioners voted 5-0 to allocate about $18 million left over from fiscal year 2012.

“You’ve got to recognize this is for the FY12 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30 of this year, so here we are in December having gotten our final reports in terms of what happened budgetarily,” Lee said. “This budget was presented to the Board of Commissioners for approval in September of 2011.”

Lee said the county received unexpected revenue while it maintained expenses at a stronger level than anticipated.

The $18 million will go to pay for needed capital improvements, Lee said.

“This is a surplus that did not happen because of millage rates or anything to that nature,” Lee said. “In fact, we’re rolling back the millage 0.2 mills because that is sustainable. And a five-year plan we put together calls for 0.2 millage reduction this year, next year, the year after that, the year after that, and 0.1 in the fifth year rolled back to a 0.9 mill increase we had to go through in 2011. If things improve better than we had projected, we’ll accelerate that reduction.”

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The $18 million will be divided up this way: reduce the property tax rate by 0.2 mills for fiscal 2013 ($4.7 million); upgrade technology infrastructure in courts ($3.2 million); pay off debt for Powder Springs Station ($2.8 million); contingency planning ($2.7 million); accountable and capital equipment ($1.5 million); update police fleet ($1 million); replacement tower for McCollum airport ($1.3 million); storage of archeological items found during county construction ($62,000); solid waste post-closure study of landfills ($50,000) and solid waste methane gas issue at closed landfills ($250,000).

Commissioners also changed the annual water system transfer to avoid forcing a rate hike on residents.

“We are reducing the amount of the transfer from the water system by $3.4 million to enable the water system to absorb the projected water rate increases that were proposed earlier this month, meaning that no water rate increases will occur in January as a result of the strength of this year’s digest,” Lee said.
Comments
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Longtimeemployee
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November 29, 2012
I would like to thank the four commissioners that voted for the raise and the citizens of Cobb County. I have worked here in Cobb for over 23 years in public safety. I stayed because I enjoy what I do and the job security and benefits. I am one of the few public safety employees that can afford to live in Cobb this being in large part that I have worked two jobs all this time. One of the reasons not mentioned for the pay raise I believe is the large number of police officers and firefighters that have left. The benefits and retirement are why I stayed. These to me outwayed the greater pay my friends were enjoying. I can remember in times past when some public safety workers were eligible for food stamps. Those hired on in the past 6 years have no benefits upon retirement. They have a modified 401k. There is no way one can raise a family and put enough money into a 401k on a public safety salary to be able to afford retirement. Then add to that the fact these new hires have made less each year due to increases in health care etc. Do you expect men and women to work on into their sixties or seventies and be able to be fighting fire and perps? Public safety is a young persons job and you have to give them incentive to stay. There is more than taxes involved in this decision.
parentoffour
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November 28, 2012
Are teachers getting a raise? My children's teachers work long hours, attend evening events, volunteer to tutor before and after school, attend sporting events to support their students and they keep going to school to improve their skills.

I hope my children's children get a raise becasue if I could afford it, I would pay them myself
Thought
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November 29, 2012
Work long hours? Off every night, weekend, holiday, Spring Break, Fall Break, Winter Break, and EVERY SUMMER! They work approximately 8 1/2 months a year and they need a raise? Give me a break!!!
Long Hours?
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November 29, 2012
Really? As a nurse, I worked 12 hour shifts, weekends and holidays were mandatory. Night shifts were routine. And many 12 hour shifts turned into 14 or more, only to have to come back and repeat.

The worst is daylight savings time, the 13th hour when the clocks were turned back at 2 am, especially since we were on the move the entire time.

You rarely hear about nurse's complaints about their hours, wages or working conditions because they go into the profession knowing about the down side. Yes, we also work evenings instead of attending evening events and do continuing education. There are many more changes in medicine than in teaching to keep up with.
thman
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November 30, 2012
Whoever made the comment about teachers getting all that time off. You're a moron, probably one of the 33% that dropped out of school. Teachers work many more hours than you think. They bring their work home, work until the wee hours of the morning, grade papers on the weekends. Have Summers off??? YEAH RIGHT! A large portion of that time is spent planning and developing curriculum for the next year. Shut your mouth unless you know what you're talking about! Special Education Teachers spend an average of 80-90 hours a week writing eligibilities, IEPs, developing goals and objectives. Your the typical ignorant citizen that basically opens their mouth before thinking about what you say. Just shut up!
Thought
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December 04, 2012
Really! If teachers work ALL SUMMER LONG then why don't they just work 12 months a year? 80-90 hours a week? Doubtful! Maybe you should stop by a pool sometime and see how hard these teachers are working in the summer, developing a tan....not a lesson plan! Give me a break!!!
another cobb employe
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November 28, 2012
I agree with you Cobb employee. I have stuck in with Cobb county for 25 years, through thick and thin. I have seen many things some great and some not so great! But really tired of reading all the time that I should be thankful. I am thankful and praise God everyday but really sick of people acting like I don't deserve anything. i work hard day in and day out and did the smart thing as well and stuck it out here. I ignored the temptation to go elsewhere because I knew this job had job security.
Here we go again...
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November 28, 2012
Another Cobb Employee; ". . . but really sick of people acting like I don't deserve anything."

Like any employee all you deserve is what you was offer at the time of employment and what your employer, the citizens of Cobb County can afford. Many county what to tell us the employers what we can afford. After all my house is only worth $60K less than five years ago. So of course you think I should pay more. If you did the smart thing by staying then stop telling us what we must give you.
Cobb Employee
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November 28, 2012
I just want to say "Thank you" to all the citizens of Cobb County. You make me feel so appreciated with your comments. I am glad and thankful that I have a job. I should be, since you remind me of that fact every time I read an article on the MDJ online. Never mind the fact that I came to work here 17 1/2 years ago, when the economy was booming. I could have went into construction for more money than I started here at, but I saw the big picture. I took less money for a job that had a future. Now that the bubble burst, you like to remind me that I should be suffering, like all the other people that wanted more money for a less secure future. So again, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart". I couldn't ask for better people to work for and serve.
Another typical >>
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November 28, 2012
Cobb Empoyee: You may have took less money but you will receive a retirement package better than a majority of private sector employees. So let us cry for you. No thank you for wanting us to suffer so you can have more. If you do not want to work for us, then hit the road there are hundreds no thousands of people wanting your job.

Cobb Resident
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November 28, 2012
So they took $20MM from the water department and now are left with an $18MM surplus? Is it that difficult to see where the surplus came from?

I am glad to see the county employees get a much needed and deserved raise; but honestly, the surplus should be sent back to where it came from...the water department.
Overpaid Gov Workers
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November 28, 2012
Except for police (most underpaid), fire, teachers and a few other positions, most government workers are overpaid with higher pay and benefits than the private sector. We do need to reign in those costs before they bankrupt us. Many government entities are doing just that. Fat pensions and overpaid jobs for life are being phased out across the country. So this little "pay raise" should be going to the few who deserve it and not every employee and of course that won't happen. Bet this doesn't include the teachers who have gone backwards in the last few years either. Yet they're county employees who have given a larger percentage of pay up than others.
so nieve
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November 28, 2012
the school teachers are paid by the state not cobb county gov. not to mention teachers starting pay is around $35,000 or more but the schools just keep going down.
running amuck
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November 29, 2012
I am sick of the comparison between private sector and government employees. Let me point out that I recognize that there are many other employees, that are not government employees, who work holidays and weekends, etc. etc. With that said, when the economy was booming, private sector were making money... lots of money in some cases. Hopefully they saved and invested wisely. Government employees chose to work in a field with decent, if not better, benefits and stability. The cost of that, however, is less money. Before you bad mouth government employees and call greedy, private sector employees were making much more money than the government sector ever was.
ccemployee
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December 02, 2012
have you even looked at our salary pay grades...they are public record
Just Saying
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November 28, 2012
Bob Ott always takes the path of least resistance. He says bonus and no raise. One day before the vote on raising property taxes, he states that he has a secret plan that will balance the budget. This after months of haggling, furloughs, etc. My. Ott will always give a quote of save money. Dont raise taxes, yet he never has a quote on exactly how to do these things. The man is a pure ploitician and has been running for Commission Chairman for years now. It is no wonder that Tim Lee made the comment that Ott never takes a stand. I don't know if employee raises is the right thing to do but I am thankful that someone made a decision and stood by it.

proudvet
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November 28, 2012
Ott made a decision and said NO. If you had read the entire article you would have seen he proposed a bonus. Get your facts straight. It is pretty obvious you just don't like Ott. Get over it, the people he represents do and they re-elected him. You have your opinion and want it respected, why can't you respect his?
TIC
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November 28, 2012
Another half baked decision by four of the five commissioners.

This seems to put the county employees at more risk since the raise may or may not be sustainable.

Just remember that Lee said that he would make the hard decisions if they are called for in the future.

Hopefully that won't be necessary, because I have little faith in tim Lee's decision making abilites.

anonymous
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November 28, 2012
Headline form today's MDJ, page1B: Expert: U.S. won’t rebound to pre-recession numbers until 2025

Chairman Lee should have listened to this economic forecast before making this comment: "Lee said he had been assured by “leading economists” that such a pay raise was sustainable."
MPCato
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November 28, 2012
My God, one economist made a prediction for thirteen years in the future! I suggest you hunker down and plan your life based on that. I know I will.
Just Sayin....
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November 28, 2012
Anonymous, don't you know Tim must have access to ALL the leading economic forecasts and data....otherwise he would have been somewhat embarassed over the other headline. :)
cobb employee
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November 28, 2012
I am very grateful for the raise!! I think a one time bonus would've been a smarter decision if it means we are looking at furloughs or lay-offs in the future. That doesn't make sense. I am darn glad I have a job, as most of us are!
FOBSummerall
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November 28, 2012
By shelving the idea of renovating some athletic fields outlined in the SPLOST this can more than pay for itself. I smell a special interest rat when I look at these construction projects. Who renovates athletic fields in a tough economy? Maybe the FBI will figure out that one while they are here. I think you care of the people that take care of you.
County servant
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November 28, 2012
I am grateful for the 3% that may or may not go the distance. But what people dont realize is, this is not a "raise". Its an adjustment to offset the increased cost of living, health ins increase, etc.. County employees are taking home less today than they were 5 years ago. Darn glad I have a job? Yes. I am one of the few people in society that willingly put my life on the line when I go to work to ensure that the people who trash talk the meager living we make, live to trash talk another day. Do all the work, take all the blame. I wouldnt want it any other way.
Vorant
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November 28, 2012
County employees should be darn glad they have a job period. So if the economy goes into an even deeper recession we'll get our 3 percent back? The four commissioners who voted for this need a reality check and a lesson in fiscal restraint.
leChat
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November 28, 2012
County employees have jobs because there's a need for their services, just like in any business. Private companies don't cut the pay of their workers when there's demand for their product. To expect them to work for tips when you and East-Cobb Bob feel like it is just shortsighted and insulting.
Vorant
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November 28, 2012
@ leChat Governments pay employees(drones)with taxes and fees they collect at gun point(figuratively speaking) from taxpayers. There is NO free-market "product" that the taxpayer buys freely/ willingly/by choice and comparing it to private sector business is shear stupidity on your part.
leChat
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November 28, 2012
@Vorant...Yeah, yeah, ALL government employees are worthless drones who steal the money you could be using to stock your bunker.

In this republic, you're free to choose with your ballot or vote with your feet; nobody's keeping you here. If you don't care to have any of the amenities or services provided in this area (or, more likely, just don't want to pay for them), move to a hole in the ice in the Antarctic or go to Clayton county. Either way, we won't miss you.
Watcher...
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November 28, 2012
Vorant is so right!

leChat has no idea.
You should be glad
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November 28, 2012
with all do respect you should be glad that we still want to work here. Many have already left. Things cease to work without people to keep them operational. The employees are not the problem with the economy and should not be abused.
anonymous
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November 28, 2012
To Vorant

Yes sir master, thank you for letting me pick your cotton and for providing me with bread and water. And thank you for those beatings that I needed to make me a better employee. You must have been very disappointed that the world did not end the day after President Obama's reelection as was predicted by all of your Tea Party "Clan." I would gladly give you back your 3 percent if you would go away.

Much Appreciative
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November 28, 2012
Two Words: THANK YOU!
Darn Glad
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November 28, 2012
Second that... THANK YOU!!!
Shame on the Rascals
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November 28, 2012
Commisioner Ott was correct. Now,if we don't have the money in the upcoming years we will have to add furlough days and have lay-offs to balance the budget. Shame on you Tim Lee. This is a huge mistake.
baneeny
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November 28, 2012
How can you know who was right and who was wrong, you don't have any of the financial data that the Commissioners looked at to come to their decision. Those five people put a lot of thought and effort into making the decision they made, using research and data. Four of them went one way with what they saw and one went another which should be respected. You, however, have nothing to base your flippant comment on, shame on you.
Shame on the Rascals
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November 28, 2012
@baneeny - Excuse me baneeny, I think you will find me well versed in these things, and as such I can assure you I have considered the options. This was a one time source for the money that will be used. Where do you propose the money will come from next year? Can we count on continued excess from the insurance fund? Can we count on the water department being able to provide the county with another 20 million dollars in revenue? Can we count on the tax digest not falling as the assessor has predicted yet again this year? Perhaps your crystal ball tells you otherwise, but the "recovery" has yet to hit the Cobb County balance sheet. So, shame on you for dismissing me as flippant or uninformed. Check back with me next year when Tim and the gang need to balance the budget and they have to furlough people or lay them off to do it. Until then, amble on down to the courthouse and look at the budget details...it's all right there.
County Employee
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November 28, 2012
Bob Ott is wrong as usual. He surely doesn't give back any of the 50K or so a year he makes working part time. He has never submitted anything for this county that is positive and moving forward. You have to have government services and they do cost money. The 3% raise is not hardly any money in the grand scheme of the giant county budget. You people comment on everything without knowing anything. You sit in your home and complain. I work for this county and also live here. I pay the same taxes as you do, same water bill and property taxes. I personally hope who ever you work for continues to cut your benefits and pay until you can't feed your family. I hate to feel that way, but thats what I get from you. For the people that actually care about the PEOPLE that are the employees of this county and support us not starving, THANK YOU!

On another note, I work hard for my money and it's not a government handout. We don't rob you of your taxes, we fix your roads, operate your parks that the kids play in, protect you from violence, provide medical help when you are in need and countless other services. I now work two jobs so that I could continue to feed my family, so I'm not sure who thinks the employees are getting fat off the tax payers money. Walk a mile in our shoes.........
4 to 1
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November 28, 2012
Looks like Ott is a smart man..... or maybe just a headline grabbing politician that wants his name in paper. No offense but 4 others felt this was a good idea and trust in their judgement. You really have no idea what the intricate parts of the county budget are just like the rest of the people. Thats why we elect people that do have that information.... and 4 of them don't agree with you or Ott.
proudvet
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November 30, 2012
@county employee

You and 'just saying' need to get your facts right before you go and make negative baseless accusations. Maybe you don't agree with Ott but why not make sure you have your facts correct before you blog. If you look back in the MDJ you will see he has been giving up 5% of his 42K commissioner pay for almost his entire first term.

@4 to 1

The people in district 2 reelected Ott and he has the same information as your gang of four, he just didn't agree with them. Same information different opinion, where do you get off deciding who is right or wrong since you DON'T have that information
Marietta Resident
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December 05, 2012
@Proudvet

Did you know that 42K he makes is 2k higher than a 6 year firefighter for cobb county? Did you kow that same firefighter is on shift 120 hours every two weeks while Mr. Ott is part time? Did you know commisioners are the only part time employees allowed to receive health insurance and retirement benefits? I don't feel very sorry for someone thats part time making over 40K per year that will receive a BETTER pension than a full-time firefighter or police officer.
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