House panel signs off on delaying raise for DeKalb commissioners

A Georgia state senator is asking the legislature put on hold until the next terms of office a 60-percent pay raise that DeKalb County commissioners voted to give themselves.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, proposed the amendment to Senate Bill 430 because he was disappointed with the size of the commissioners' raises and their decision to make it effective Jan. 1.

“If you’re in office when the pay raise is approved, you can’t get it till the term expires,” Millar, whose district includes part of DeKalb, told members of the House Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday. “Nobody should get a raise during the middle of their term.”

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The amendment applies to all Georgia counties and says that commissioners who vote on their own raises cannot make them effective during their current terms. The 3 percent raise that DeKalb commissioners approved for CEO Mike Thurmond also would be delayed until 2021.

DeKalb commissioners approved the pay raises in February without debate or discussion, and they did not include the item on the agenda. Their salaries would increase from a base of $40,530 to $64,637.

Jeff Rader, the commission’s presiding officer, attended the committee meeting and passed out fliers explaining why he opposed Millar amendment. In the document, Rader highlights other city and county officials that voted sizable salary increases for themselves.

All three commissioners up for re-election are men, Rader pointed out. Three of the four commissioners whose terms expire in 2020 are women.

Millar said his amendment has nothing to do with commissioners’ gender.

The change to Senate Bill 430 was approved along party lines, with Republicans voting "yes" and Democrats, the minority party, voting "no."

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, questioned why the General Assembly was trying to roll back a decision made at the county level.

Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, asked whether the restriction should also apply to municipalities. No further amendments were proposed, but Millar said he wouldn’t oppose that change.

The bill now advances to the House Rules Committee, which decides what legislation make it to the floor. If the House approves, the Senate would need to sign off on the amended bill.

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