By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Board of commissioners reaches stalemate on pay raise study
Forsyth County

Over the last few weeks Forsyth County Commissioners have repeatedly discussed whether or not to increase their pay starting in 2019. The board now says that the decision to even study the matter will not be decided until a new District 2 Commissioner takes office.

On Tuesday, Commissioners voted in a 2-2 tie, with the District 2 seat vacant, on whether to have a study done by the Mercer Group. 

As with most items related to the pay increase, Commissioners Todd Levent, District 3, and Laura Semanson, District 5, were in favor, while Commissioners Pete Amos, District 1, and Cindy Jones Mills, District 4, were opposed. 

“I really think we ought to wait on a full, five-person board before we vote on any of this compensation, because it will affect the new member,” Amos said. 

Levent, who has spoken in favor of the study and pay raise, made comments against Amos supporting moving ahead with the study in August then voting against it. 

Semanson said the commission should go ahead with the study and having the information from the study would help with the discussion. She also pointed out that the study might not say commissioners should be paid more.

“I think everybody is operating under the assumption that this is necessarily an increase, it may not be,” she said. “I think, until we answer that question, it’s going to continue to be kicked around.”

Tie votes automatically defer the item until the tie can be broken, which will mean a new commissioner for District 2. 

Dennis Brown, a south Forsyth resident and retired U.S. Army Colonel, was the sole candidate to qualify for the seat and will be the deciding vote after the Nov. 7 election.

Commissioners indicated the matter would next come up at the Nov. 22 work session.

The study will look at compensation and workload and will take about three months and is expected to cost about $33,000. 

The Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia, as well as county staff, are expected to perform the study.

At a previous meeting, commissioners said they wanted the study to look into the population of counties, growth, zoning, hours and availability of commissioners, what amount would encourage candidates to run but not be high enough to draw career politicians, as well as other factors. 

Unlike other elected officials, county commissioners can only receive a raise by voting themselves. If approved, the new pay would go into effect in 2019. 

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

Tying the raise to cost of living adjustments for county employees has also been discussed.

In August, commissioners voted 3-0, with Levent absent and the District 2 seat vacant, to deny a pay raise that would have increased the salary of commissioners to $48,000 and to $49,500 for the chairman.

Adding to the drama of the vote was the vacant seat of former-District 2 Commissioner Rick Swope, who stepped down the same week to accept an executive position with E-Trade. 

Prior to that meeting, previous votes had been 3-2, with Levent, Swope and District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson in favor and Mills and District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos against.

The argument in favor of increasing pay was that it would increase the pool of potential candidates and would allow people to run who would not otherwise be able to take the heavy workload and have a full-time job.

Opponents have argued that being a commissioner is a part-time job and that it would increase costs to the county.