In an effort to retain police, firefighters and other government employees, Henry County commissioners approved pay raises this week for most of its 1,700 government workers.
The decision comes as the southside county tries to keep pace with other municipalities across metro Atlanta — including Cobb, DeKalb and Clayton — who have explored raising wages of their own because the strong economy has made it easier for staffers to seek higher paying jobs.
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Henry plans to spend $4 million to give raises to as many as 88 percent of the county government’s workforce, county leaders said. The expense was already budgeted and won’t impact current tax rates.
The county has been losing employees — especially police officers and firefighters — who have been leaving to go elsewhere in metro Atlanta to earn as little as $1,200 more a year.
“We have a plan, we have a goal and we have a vision to take care of our personnel,” Deputy County Manager Brad Johnson said at Tuesday’s Henry Commission meeting where the compensation plan was unanimously adopted.
The county conducted a study of compensation over the past year, but developing a plan has been fraught with complications. Concerns over how the increases would be distributed led to the failure of the commission to set the county’s millage rate in early August, though the problem was rectified almost two weeks later.
How much more workers will earn will depend on their years of service, increases in minimum pay for certain positions and increases in salaries to make them more competitive.
An entry level administrative assistant currently can make about $25,000 in Henry, $4,000 below the average $29,200 in the other metro Atlanta markets studied that included Conyers, Douglasville and Cobb and Cherokee counties. An experienced fire battalion chief makes about $95,800 in Henry, but could earn $96,500 in other markets.
Any pay increase under the plan is capped at $5,000.
“What is most important is that we are bringing up all of our employees to the minimum that is required for those positions within our pay scale,” said County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews.
Commissioner Blake Prince said he’s happy the county has finally adjusted pay, though he thinks it’s taken too long.
He acknowledged concerns from some residents, who argued that the investment is not warranted and may be too generous.
“I’ve talked to a lot of constituents and citizens and it’s like they think tomorrow this parking lot is going to be full of Ferrari’s,” he said. “We are not giving huge raises here.”