After deciding not to raise their own pay, Forsyth County commissioners have decided to move ahead with a study to look into the pay of commissioners in surrounding counties.
The decision was made at a work session on Tuesday and passed 3-1, with District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills opposed and the District 2 seat vacant.
“The idea was here … to have a little bit more of an open discussion of what criteria we would want to include in a study and to determine whether or not there should be an increase and whether or not we would want to tie it to a [cost of living increase] so we don’t have this ugly exercise in the future,” District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said.
The pay raise has been a heated topic among commissioners recently. At a regular meeting just days before the work session, commissioners voted 3-0, with Chairman Todd Levent absent and the District 2 seat vacant, to deny the raise.
Semanson said at the time she would like the county to look at doing a study.
The study will look into the population of counties, growth, zoning, hours and availability of commissioners, what amount would encourage candidates to run but be high enough to draw career politicians and other factors.
Interim County Manager Tim Merritt will discuss with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson institute to determine how best to undertake the study.
Adding another layer to the drama was the vacant seat of former-District 2 Commissioner Rick Swope, who stepped down in mid-August to accept an executive position with E-Trade.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, previous votes had been 3-2, with Levent, Swope and 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 argued that being a commissioner is a part-time job and that it would increase expense to the county.
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. The salary of commissioners in the state can only be increased by commissioners voting to give themselves a raise.