Cobb approves $17 minimum wage and pay increases for county staff

Cobb residents are asked to leave their comments on a new county survey at PublicInput.com/K216, regarding how to best handle natural hazards. AJC file photo

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Cobb residents are asked to leave their comments on a new county survey at PublicInput.com/K216, regarding how to best handle natural hazards. AJC file photo

Most Cobb County employees will see pay raises as early as September after the Board of Commissioners agreed this week to implement recommendations from its recent pay study.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid pushed to set the county’s minimum hourly rate to $17 per hour, or about $35,000 per year, to help fill vacancies amid a countywide staffing shortage.

County Manager Jackie McMorris said she used to receive hundreds of applications for government positions, but now gets only a handful of candidates for most jobs.

“There was a time when the lines were long to come to Cobb,” she said.

While recruiting new employees is a priority, retaining the current staff is also important, McMorris said.

The pay study, which commissioners reviewed in May, evaluated how Cobb classifies and compensates government employees compared to other jurisdictions, and recommended strategies to become more competitive. The study, performed by Evergreen Solutions, determined that Cobb employees make roughly 8% less than those in other metro counties.

Nearly all staff members will receive some sort of raise with the new classification and pay structure, said county spokesman Ross Cavitt.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell expressed concerns over wage compression, which can occur if current employees who have been working longer end up making close to or the same amount of money as new employees who just started.

“How do we compensate the folks that have been here with new people coming on at the same rate, the same level of pay?” Birrell said at this week’s board meeting.

The pay structure factors in tenure to make sure existing staff will be properly compensated, and to ease potential wage compression.

Most will see around a 10% increase in pay, but the raises will vary depending on position. Those currently making the lowest will see the highest percent increases, said human resources manager Glenda Valentine.

The pay raises will take effect in September with an estimated $1.6 million in leftover funding from the 2022 budget. When the 2023 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, the new budget will fund the raises, which are estimated to cost $22 million per year.

McMorris said employees are grateful for the pay increase and new minimum wage, which she added is not as high in today’s economy as it may seem.

“For some, it is life-changing,” she said. “I ask, how many of you can live on $35,000 a year in Cobb County?”