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Forsyth County weighs pay hike for government workers

FORSYTH COUNTY — Forsyth County government employees could be in line for a pay raise in 2015, their first in two years, though the specifics have not been determined.

The Forsyth commission on Tuesday discussed the possibility of raising salaries for county workers. While no action was taken on the matter, talks centered on bringing their pay to a comparable level with those of other local governments, and providing a cost-of-living increase.

“We are recommending based on some conversation with the county that you implement a 2.2 percent cost-of-living salary increase across the board for all employees,” said Nancy Berkley with Evergreen Solutions of Tallahassee, Fla. “The total cost for that would be $1.19 [million].”

In June, the county hired Evergreen to conduct a salary comparison study. For the pay grades, the company compared Forsyth to other county and municipal governments in the metro Atlanta area.

If the commission moves forward with the plan, then the median salary for county workers would equal that of their contemporaries elsewhere. 

“We came up with a recommended salary range schedule, which is designed on an open range plan where you have again grades with minimums, midpoints and maximums,” Berkeley said. “We are basically trying to align, if you will, the midpoints of the classifications now … to the midpoints [in the presentation.]

“Midpoint is generally considered market, where an employee would expect to be paid if they were fully proficient … and adequately performing in their job.”

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.

The proposal would not affect taxes, as the commission approved the 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.

“You may recall in the finance committee, and of course adopted by the board in the 2015 budget, as opposed to sitting aside a merit increase or [cost of living adjustment] increase … we simply set aside approximately just a little over $1.3 million for salary adjustments,” explained County Manager Doug Derrer.

“That money was set aside should there be an implementation, so there was funding in the budget in 2015 for [this].”

Two main options were presented for the pay hike. The first would increase the pay only of employees below the minimum. It would affect 269 workers.

The second option would affect 800 employees. It would bring the same 269 people to the minimum, while also moving those above the minimum to the same relative positon on the new scale capped at 2.2 percent of their current salaries. Under this change, no one would be paid above midpoint. 

The county looked at several routes for implementing the changes, including when to roll them out and whether to retroactively apply the cost-of-living increase to the start of 2015.

The commissioners decided to send the proposal to the finance committee and it will be discussed at a future work session.

If approved, the pay changes would be the first since a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2013.