FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to kill a proposal that would have provided them each a 25 percent increase in salary.
The board voted 3-0 Aug. 17, with Chairman Todd Levent absent and the newly vacated District 2 seat open, to deny a resolution approved last month that would give board members an increase in compensation.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the board could do a study on compensation before bringing this back if they choose to, it just has to be done before qualifying in 2018.
The proposed compensation was for an annual salary for the chair of $49,500 and an annual salary for other board members at $48,000.
It would have represented a $10,000 increase from the base salary for board members, with the chair receiving a slightly higher salary due to added duties.
The topic had been debated for nearly two months before commissioners in July voted to move forward with the plan.
A few weeks later, the board denied a study comparing salaries of commissioners in neighboring counties.
State law says the board of commissioners can establish their own salary, Jarrard said.
Levent said in July he received many questions from the public regarding commissioners voting on their own salary.
“It’s out of our control,” Levent said. “We’d love to be on the same schedule as most other elected officials. When there is a population increase, they automatically get a raise because it’s assumed their job and workload goes up. But we are some of the few who get stuck.”
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said in June their role as commissioner is considered part time and people have other livelihoods, but 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 Office deputies.