Board OKs pay raise for some county employees

Increase in June for those making less than $40,000



ATLANTA -- Fulton County employees who make less than $40,000 per year received a 2 percent pay raise at Wednesday’s meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.

During early discussion about the fund balance, Commissioner Emma Darnell asked about salary increases for employees. She moved to add a 2 percent pay raise for employees who make $40,000 per year or less into the 2011 budget, with the raise taking effect on June 22.

Commission member Robb Pitts asked Finance Director Patrick O’Connor about the implications of the proposed pay increase.

Fulton County Budget Manager Hakeem Oshikoya said the raise would cost the general fund roughly $981,000 this year, something Fulton County Manager Zachary Williams confirmed. In a later interview, Oshikoya said that when employee salaries paid from other funds were included, the total 2011 cost of the raise was nearly $1.2 million.

Darnell said her motion would restrict the salary increase to employees whose economic situation was the worst-affected by the poor economy.

“I support targeting the increase for this year, effective mid-year, to that group of employees who have had the most negative impact from the economic downturn,” she said.

Vice-Chairman William “Bill” Edwards objected to the raise. He said $10 million which had been taken out of the county budget earlier and transferred to Grady could have been used to fund salary increases.

Pitts asked how many employees would benefit from the proposed raise.

Oshikoya said there were 2,277 employees paid from the county general fund who would receive raises. Other employees who are paid from other funds will receive raises as well.

Pitts asked if one-third of county employees would be affected and Williams confirmed this. Pitts said the measure is well intended, but would cost the 2012 budget $2 million. Oshikoya later said the final cost to the 2012 budget would be $2.38 million.

“Where is that $2 million coming from?” Pitts asked.

Commissioner Joan P. Garner said she supported the sentiment of the proposal because the lowest-paid county employees were the worst-affected by the poor economy. She said she would support the motion to show the county cares about its employees.

“I too would like to express my appreciation for the employees of Fulton County,” said Commission member Liz Hausmann.

However, she said taxpayers also bore burdens in these poor economic times. She said she could not support the raise at this time.

Pitts again asked where the money for the raises would come from. Williams said the money came from the county fund balance above the 8.33 percent minimum, which he said amounted to $6 million.

Commission Chairman John D. Eaves said that some employees receiving raises and others not receiving raises could affect employee morale. He said he had another idea and did not support Darnell’s motion.

Commissioner Tom Lowe acknowledged the lowest-paid employees had the greatest need for a raise. However, he said the county could not afford to spend the money. Instead, he moved to grant the lowest-paid employees a 1 percent raise. The motion failed for lack of a second.

The raise passed 4-3, with Eaves, Hausmann and Pitts dissenting. The raise reduced the reserve fund to $5.85 million.

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