Cobb dedicates $20M in federal funds to public safety pay and recruitment

Cobb commissioners voted last week to allocate $20 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward public safety pay and recruitment efforts for the next two years, to address the staffing issues plaguing the departments.

Currently, Cobb County has 260 vacancies total in police, fire, sheriff and 911 — a vacancy rate of 12%.

“It remains a difficult environment to find people who want to take on these challenging jobs,” Randy Crider, the county’s public safety director, said in a statement. “We compete with public safety agencies nationwide for a smaller pool of candidates.”

Starting in early 2023, the funds will increase the starting salary from $46,000 to $50,000 for police officers, firefighters and deputies, and give 4% pay raises for sworn and certified public safety employees.

Crider said the plan prioritizes current staff first because “those are the employees that have stuck with us, that have been loyal to Cobb County.”

The plan also boosts the lateral recruitment program to bring those with more experience to the county. It also provides funds for advertising and social media outreach efforts.

The commissioners unanimously approved the plan, but Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said they must revisit it in next year’s budget cycle to ensure its incorporation into the county budget, instead of “kicking the can of funding down the road.”

“The ARPA dollars is not a recurring funding source, it’s a one-time funding source,” Cupid said. “This should be a general fund cost. I’m very concerned about that.”

This year, the board approved a new $17 per hour minimum wage and salary boosts to address the county-wide staffing issues. Crider said sworn and certified employees were not included in that round of raises, but were placed on a step-in-grade pay structure, which provides for yearly increases in pay.