A Henry study to ensure county police and other municipal workers are receiving competitive pay is at the center of a debate over property taxes in the south metro community. Photo: JOHN SPINK / AJC/JOHN SPINK / AJC

Pay raise dispute upends Henry County attempt to set millage rate

Henry County residents will have to wait a little while longer to find out what their property tax bills will be next year after the County Commission failed to pass a millage rate because of a dispute over worker raises.

The south metro Atlanta community was supposed to set its millage on Tuesday, but the approval failed after the six-member board could not get a majority vote on the measure. Commissioners deadlocked with three in favor and three opposed.

“The motion fails. We do not have a millage rate to approve, I don’t know what we need to do to move forward,” Commission Chairwoman June Wood said Tuesday before adjourning the meeting.

County officials said they will try again Aug. 13.

At issue is a proposal to set aside $4 million for raises the county’s managers anticipate they will need to keep wages for Henry County workers competitive with other counties and even with some Henry cities.

The county has commissioned a compensation study to look at whether its employees are receiving competitive wages based on job classification and how its pay compares to other jurisdictions. The county is one of several in metro Atlanta undertaking such studies as the region’s job market becomes more competitive.

Commissioners Bruce Holmes and Dee Clemmons said the $4 million would have to be taken out of the budget before they could approve the millage rate — which is set at 12.733 mills, the same as in 2018. They also said the county needed to provide clearer information on who would be eligible for raises.

“It’s too much fluctuation in there for me,” Holmes said, noting that he has heard different numbers on the percentage of employees who would be eligible for the bump in pay. “I need specifics or I can’t vote for the millage.”

Holmes and Clemmons voted no on the millage along with Commissioner Gary Barham.

County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews encouraged the board to vote on the millage, saying that it was a separate issue from the pay raises. While the county was not raising its millage rate, the increase in home values and the growth of businesses opening in Henry would bring in an additional $6.3 million in taxes next year, she said.

Commissioners troubled by the money set aside for raises could address the issue during a workshop on the study planned for Aug. 21, Matthews said.

But, she added, the compensation issue is not likely to go away.

“We’re losing employees because we’re not compensating them,” she said.

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