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Board votes to change pay structure
No more per-meeting model
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Forsyth County News
In a move they said is aimed at simplicity and transparency, Forsyth County commissioners have changed their pay structure.

The commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to adopt a flat salary rather than its current base salary and pay-per-meeting model.

Effective January 2011, commissioners will receive $34,200 per year and the chairman will get $35,400.

The salary reflects what the commissioners are currently receiving, $350 per month and $125 per meeting with a maximum of 20 paid meetings.
The chairman receives an additional $100 per month.

The move is neither a pay increase or decrease. The numbers add up the same either way, according to the commissioners.

“I don’t think it’s going to make any difference because I don’t know of anybody who’s ever taken less than 20 meetings,” said Chairman Charles Laughinghouse.

A check of county records shows no formal definition of meetings.

Aside from the usual four scheduled meetings per month, commissioners generally count any meeting related to county business.

The current arrangement is set up as “no work, no pay,” said Laughinghouse, adding that the switch won’t alter how the board operates.

While there’s no requirement to document or prove attendance at meetings, the commissioners are supposed to submit a calendar of meeting dates.

Laughinghouse said some of his colleagues have had an issue keeping up with it.

Bell, who admitted he’s a few months behind on submitting his paperwork, suggested the change to a flat salary for transparency.

“It really needs to made as clear as possible,” he said. “It is what it is, and I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s a tremendous amount of work.”

Bell said he regularly attends up to 30 or 40 meetings per month and works 40 to 50 hours per week in what’s considered a part-time position.

The new pay structure won’t go into effect until next year, but the vote was taken Tuesday because commissioners must modify the salary before qualifying fees for county elections are due this year.

Since the salary structure will not kick in until next year, qualifying fees for election this year will remain the same.

In 2011, however, the fee for running for commission will increase from the current $126 to $1,026. The cost is calculated at 3 percent of the base salary for the office.

There are no county elections scheduled that year, so the changes to qualifying fees likely won’t be felt until 2012.

The commission had not made changes to the payment structure since 2005, when the current model was adopted. It took effect in January 2007.

In 2006, the year prior to the switch, commissioners received $13,786.23 per year and the chairman $16,266.88.

Laughinghouse and Commissioner Brian Tam were the only current commissioners on the board at that time.

Most nearby counties operate on an annual salary. Hall County served as the model for pay-per-meeting compensation in 2005.

Forsyth County spokeswoman Jodi Gardner said the commission has the ability to adjust its compensation under Georgia’s home rule.

The state can adjust any increases for longevity on the commission and cost of living.

By a state mandate, commissioners certified by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia receive an extra $100 per month, which include Bell and Laughinghouse.

Another aspect the commissioners can control is taking less money home when they feel it’s necessary.

Some commissioners noted at the Tuesday meeting that they voluntarily took a pay cut for 2010.

Laughinghouse, Tam and Bell signed individual statements taking a cut in their base pay for this year.

“It’s really very simple,” Laughinghouse said. “You ask staff to take pay cuts. Why shouldn’t you? You can’t ask people to do what you won’t do yourself.”