CUMMING, Ga. — Just in time for the holidays, Cumming city employees should start seeing something extra in their paychecks.
On the heels of an 8 percent pay hike last year, the Cumming City Council approved another 8 percent pay increase for city employees Oct. 17 that will come in two stages.
Come November, staff will see a 4 percent pay increase.
If the City Council approves the 2018 budget at its November meeting, employees will receive an additional 4 percent in January.
Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said the increase comes this time of the year because it’s after the city completes its budget. Whatever funds remain in contingency is used for the raise.
“We do this to help the employees because the cost of living is continuously rising,” Gravitt said. “Every week when you go to the grocery store, it seems like the prices have increased and sometimes by a lot.”
Additionally, insurance expenses for staff have risen 3 percent over the past year, Gravitt said, so the city will also cover that.
Assistant City Administrator Phil Higgins said the city launched its salary initiative last year after looking into employee retention.
“In the previous year, we had lost a great number of employees due to salary and going other places,” Higgins said. “They were looking for more money in their checks. To be competitive we knew we’d have to step it up some or we’d lose key people.”
The effort has paid off. While the city has lost some employees, it has seen a decrease in the number of employees who left due to salary concerns.
Cumming has about 138 full-time employees, and the raise will only apply to full-time workers. The city had roughly 142 employees at this time last year, but was replacing them as they were lost.
“When you’re having constant turnover, that’s a problem,” Higgins said.
The money for the raise comes from different areas.
With the exception of the Water Department, extra money from the 2017 budget and LOST revenue will be used to cover the pay increase.
The water department operates as an enterprise fund and has a separate budget, Higgins said. It operates off the money generated from water sales and fees.
In previous years, the city gave only the initial 4 percent raise for cost of living, Higgins said.
“But during the recession, revenues were down so much we couldn’t afford to give an increase,” Higgins said. “Fortunately, the mayor and council have found a way to eat the cost on the insurance. We didn’t get a raise a couple of years because the insurance cost went way up so all the money left over went to that.”
But this year has been good for the city, he said.
“The Aquatic Center, Park and Recreation, and Planning and Zoning all had a good year,” Higgins said. “It’s been good. When the economy is good, all this is good.”