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Board of Commissioners move ahead with salary increase
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Forsyth County Commissioners could see an increase in compensation from the county starting in 2019. 

At a recent work session, commissioners voted 2-1, with District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills opposed and District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos and District 2 Commissioner Rick Swope absent, to move forward with a future compensation increase for commissioners. 

The pay rate will next be discussed at the commission’s July 6 regular meeting and, if approved, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. 

Commissioners currently make about $38,000 per year, with the chairman’s salary slightly higher, and a $1,200 stipend if certified by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute. 

The change would raise it to $42,000, with $250 per meeting for up to eight “compensable meetings” a month for commissioners and 12 for the chair. Those meetings can include county meetings or regional meetings if commissioners are in an official capacity.

Chairman Todd Levent, who made the motion, said commissioners attend 40-50 meetings each month and the current pay meant many could not run and work a full-time job.

“When they take the job, everybody tells them it is 20 hours a week, and they think they can keep their other job,” he said. “And you can, but you’re going to be working 80-90 hours a week. You have to have your own company, you have to have your own business, there’s no employer that is going to put up with that and it limits the pool of people that will run.

Future compensation increases will be tied to cost of living or merit increases for county employees.

“Hopefully no other board has to vote to give themselves a raise ever again,” Levent said

Health insurance and state compensation will not change for commissioners.

Mills said being a commissioner was considered a part-time job, commissioners had other livelihoods and she had promised not to raise commissioner salaries. 

“What we make currently is right in the wheelhouse of what county’s our size make, we’re not grossly underpaid by any means,” said Mills, later adding, “I stood up before the  [Fraternal Order of Police] and told them as long as I was commissioner I would not vote for a raise if we were making more than them.”

Following the vote, Levent said the payment would attract a better pool of candidates, while Mills said it could attract candidates only concerned with the money. 

At a previous regular meeting, county residents Bill Gunby, speaking on behalf of the Homeowners Coalition, spoke in favor of higher salaries. He said the growth the county increased the workload for commissioners and changed the nature of the job. 

“The issues are coming hard and fast,” he said, “and the issues these days are so much more complex than they used to be, so being a commissioner is no longer a part-time job.”

He said the coalition supported a modest increase and higher compensation for meetings but did want to see a cap in meetings.