FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — After going back and forth for months over what county commissioners should be paid, the Board of Commissioners approved a study to look into the issue of compensation.
The vote was 3-1, with Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills against and the District 2 seat vacant, to move forward with a study now that the county has hired a county manager.
The topic first came up in June when the board began discussing increased compensation. Just weeks after voting to move forward with a bid to increase the annual compensation, commissioners denied a proposal for a study.
Then in August, the board denied a 25 percent pay raise that had been approved in July.
Now, commissioners are revisiting the topic, and they have decided to go ahead with a study comparing salaries of commissioners in neighboring counties.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the study has to be done before election qualifying in 2018. If approved, the raise wouldn’t go into effect until January 1, 2019.
The last proposal that was shot down was for an annual salary for the chair of $49,500 and an annual salary for other board members set at $48,000.
It would have represented a $10,000 increase from the current base salary for board members, with the chair receiving a slightly higher salary due to added duties.
State law says the board of commissioners can establish their own salary, Jarrard said.
In June, Mills said their role as commissioner is considered part time and people have other means of making a living. But Commission Chairman Todd Levent said that assessment was inaccurate.
“When people take the job, everyone tells you it’s only 20 hours a week and you can keep your other job,” Levent said in June. “We can, but you’ll be working 80-90 hours a week. You’d have to own your own company or business as no employer would put up with that.”
The chairman said commissioners can average between 5,000-7,000 miles on their personal cars yearly, often without seeking reimbursement, and they can attend anywhere from 20-40 meetings a month, drawing out the work day to more than 12 hours.
These demands, Levent said, limit the pool of people who would want to consider running for the office.
Mills countered that she feared a salary increase might draw the wrong types of people who are in it solely for the money.
“Forsyth County pays comparable amounts to other counties in similar population size, so they aren’t “grossly underpaid by any means,” Mills said. She said she told members of the public as long as she is a commissioner, she wouldn’t vote for a raise that pays them more annually than Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies.