COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – Tuesday morning, Columbia County Commissioners held a budget work session to look at changes to the proposed 2022 Fiscal Year Budget.
In his presentation, County Manager Scott Johnson told commissioners that they had some significant changes – the major change being a proposal to set the minimum pay for all hourly employees of Columbia County at $15 an hour.
“The Board challenged us to go back and look at salaries as they relate to the entire county and our salary matrix,” Johnson said. “And we looked at trying to get our entry level up. As you know, when you get your entry level up then it affects everyone across the board.”
Johnson told the Commissioners that the proposal stemmed from a desire to make Columbia County Sheriff’s Office more competitive when it came to applicants.
With 30 positions currently in that department, the lack of entry-level personnel is hindering the ability to fill leadership positions.
“He’s moving people up as he can, but he actually has vacancies in his higher ranks that he is choosing not to fill to not pull a deputy off the road,” said Johnson, referring to Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle.
This means that there are some promotions that are on hold as the department attempts to backfill positions, said Johnson.
Sheriff Whittle had originally suggested a similar raise in pay for entry-level positions in order to attract more and better qualified applicants; this idea, Johnson said, idea inspired the county-wide approach being proposed.
Once they looked at one deserving set of employees in one department, Johnson explained, it brought to mind other department whose base pay that could benefit from the competitive edge.
“The Fire Department’s in a similar situation,” Johnson said. “We have people leaving Columbia County to go to other departments to be able to make more money.”
Johnson mentioned that Amazon’s move into the county also represented a foreseeable draw on the personnel resources of the county.
For the Sheriff’s Office, Johnson said, the calculations they currently have on hand mean that entry-level deputies will receive $20 an hour – stark contrast to what is now available and, hopefully, will allow for retention and promotion of current employees.
The next discussion of this proposal is planned for June 15th.