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Pay hike possible for two Forsyth elected officials
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Forsyth County News

FORSYTH COUNTY — Two high-ranking Forsyth County elected officials appear to be in line for sizable raises.

On Tuesday, the local finance committee voted to recommend the county commission increase the pay of Sheriff Duane Piper and Clerk of Courts Greg Allen.

The discussion started when Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills looked into what the sheriffs of surrounding counties make.

“I was totally blown away when I found that our sheriff … got paid $92,000 and we have almost 200,000 people, and Dawson County’s sheriff gets paid $90,000 and they’ve got 26,000 people,” Mills said.

She added that the sheriff in Hall, Forsyth’s eastern neighbor, “gets paid $127,000,” though that county also trails Forsyth in population.

Mills said she wasn’t asked to conduct a salary comparison, but did so during the county’s ongoing discussion of pay schedules.

“I want to make it very clear that the sheriff has never, ever, ever asked me to look at this,” she said. “I just took it upon myself.

“As we were looking at compensation and other people’s compensations, it just became of interest to me to look at [this].”

Though both Allen’s and Piper’s predecessors received a supplement, neither man has received one since taking office. Allen was elected to his post in 2008 and Piper in 2012.

The committee recommended that both office-holders receive an annual supplement starting at $15,000 and, if approved, that it be added to the 2016 budget.

During its meeting Tuesday afternoon, the committee also recommended a pay increase and cost-of-living adjustment for county employees.

If approved by the commission, the adjustment would be retroactively applied to the beginning of the year and the pay increases would start June 29.

The cost-of-living increase likely would total about 2.2 percent of an employee’s current salary, while the pay adjustment would be based on their new salaries. 

The committee also recommended adopting a new pay grade system

If passed, an employee’s salary would be brought up to the minimum of their new pay grade if they’re not making the minimum.

Those making above the minimum would be moved to the same relative position on the new scale, but no salaries would be moved above the midpoint.

The discussion to increase employees’ salaries stems from a recent compensation and benefits study conducted by Evergreen Solutions of Tallahassee, which compared Forsyth County to other metro Atlanta municipalities.

The cost of implementing the changes has been estimated at about $1.8 million.

The proposal would not immediately affect taxes, as the commission approved the pay study in June 2014 and set aside part of this year’s budget toward a possible pay increase.

The money set aside affects only the general fund, while departments whose budgets lie elsewhere, such as fire and water and sewer, would adjust salaries from their own spending plans.

One reason given for possible pay hike was employee retention, or to discourage workers from moving to other governments that offer better pay after the county went to the expense of training them.