Marietta Daily Journal Quotes Foundation Over Pay Raises

The Marietta Daily Journal’s “Around Town” column of Tuesday, February 14, 2017 quoted Foundation Vice President Benita Dodd in response to the Cobb County Commission’s plan to implement across-the-board increases based on a consultant’s recommendation. The item is published below and can be accessed online here

AROUND TOWN: Commissioners to weigh $8.3 million pay increase for county employees

THIS MORNING, after presumably kissing their spouses, county commissioners will decide whether to give county employees an $8.3 million valentine.

But before they make that decision, there are a few things commissioners may want to consider.

Under former County Chairman Tim Lee, Cobb County paid the Archer Group a premium of $326,420 to conduct a study of the county’s pay scales. Why commissioners didn’t ask the county’s HR department to do the work has yet to be believably answered.

Archer found that Cobb wasn’t paying its workers enough, advising they needed some love (never mind the annual 3 percent merit raise employees have received each year since fiscal 2014).

There’s a fairly clear pattern Archer has established when it comes to advising governments about staff raises. A random sampling of recent news articles report that Archer left its thumbprint on the city of Kennesaw, DeKalb County, the city of Smyrna, Fulton County and Dawson County. In each study of the pay scales for those entities, increasing wages was among the company’s recommendations.

Based on the above, Archer appears to have created a lucrative self-sustaining cycle. If on every merry-go-round stop, Archer finds that Government X’s wages should be raised, then the same recommendation can be offered during its tete-a-tete with Government Z.

And it’s not just these endless recommendations to raise the salaries of impoverished government workers who enjoy generous pensions that have long since been eliminated in the private sector.

There is also the mislabeling of the initial market survey sent by Archer to its Cobb County client. Each page of the report was erroneously titled “DeKalb County,” leading some to wonder if this was just a cut-and-paste affair.

The salary recommendations were also curious. Archer believes commissioners should give county lifeguards an average annual raise of $6,717, boost librarians’ pay by an average of $12,076 and give a “recreation leader” an additional $12,739 annually. Meantime, the recommended average raise for a police officer? A mere $1,108 bump.

Another point to consider is how newly-elected Chairman Mike Boyce and the district commissioners believe they will pay for these permanent raises.

Yes, they have set aside enough to cover the first year, but what about every year thereafter?

Boyce — who campaigned as a fiscal conservative — was rather cavalier in answering that question in Sunday’s MDJ, saying something about relying on an uptick in the economy.

This is at least an $8.3 million annual commitment commissioners are approving, and if the economy doesn’t rocket as Boyce hopes, he’s going to have to find the money somewhere, which likely means taxpayer pockets.

No one is saying county employees don’t do a terrific job and aren’t valued. After all, they’ve been the beneficiary of a 3 percent merit raise for the last few budget cycles. But this money commissioners are getting ready to spend doesn’t fall from the sky. It comes out of the hard-earned paychecks of Cobb County residents. We realize elected officials want to be loved by county employees so they’ll vote them back into office. But in their pursuit of this relationship, remember not to neglect the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Benita Dodd, of east Cobb, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, hit the nail on the head when she said, “For all the discussion of ‘below-market salaries,’ we should be looking at what the market can bear — by which I mean what can be borne by Cobb’s taxpayers, who ultimately are paying the salary and benefits of each county employee.”
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