All Walton County employees to get a pay raise

A 6 % Cost of Living Allowance raise to be paid effective immediately

The Walton County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to give all employees of the County a 6 % Cost of Living Allowance as well as a tiered pay raise for department heads. The tiered pay raises would be based on various factors such as length of service. Human resources would be charged with making those determinations.

The measure passed with just Commissioner Bo Warren voting against it.

Walton County BOC Chairman David Thompson proposed the pay raise, saying he had been looking at the situation since about July and felt that it was highly needed in the present economy. Current employees were struggling with inflation and recruitment has been difficult with the present pay scales. Thompson said it would require $2.8 million to fund raises for all the current employees as well as the increasing the pay for the 80 vacant positions that the county was still trying to fill. But, he said, it could be done without putting any extra burden of taxpayers.

“I’ve met with department heads and gone over the budget and we’ve found little over $1 million in savings to apply towards this pay raise in the existing budget and we’re earning well over $1.8 million in additional interest due to us in investing in U.S. Treasury Bonds – so we can do this pay raise without a mill rate increase to the general public or property owners. I think it is highly needed and as Chairman I’d like to recommend this,” Thompson said, adding that the county was losing employees to the private sector. The $2.8 million cost was also just for full-time employees and did not cover part-time or temporary employees. Part-time employees, however, are also in line for the 6 % pay raise.

Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman addressed the need for this in the Sheriff’s Office, noting that 43 of the 80 vacancies were in his department. He said he believed this would help him with recruitment.

“We have people from Dekalb and Gwinnett who want to come to work for us, but they just can’t afford to because they would have to take a pay cut. It would definitely help us,” he said.

Wendra Williams, director of the 911 Center, said 10 of those vacancies were in the 911 Center. She said staff, including office staff, were working long overtime hours working the phones in order to make up for the shortfall in staffing. She said she would be prepared to give up her pay raise if it would help with recruitment and ensuring that her staff were taken care of. She noted that working the phones in a 911 center is a very stressful job.

“My 911 dispatchers answer the phones and and say, ‘Walton County 911 what is your emergency,’ and you have someone screaming that someone just got shot, or their son is choking or their wife is having a heart attack. And they are earning what someone earns who is flipping burgers,” Williams said, adding that the 6 % won’t fix the problem, “but it will certainly help.”

Commissioner Mark Banks said he would like to have the pricing structure for the different jobs looked at since some of the vacancies advertised have 80 people apply and others have just one applicant or no applicants at all. Thompson agreed that should be a consideration to take a look at going forward.

In the meantime, the 6 % COLA allowance across the board for full-time and part-time employees and tiered pay raises for department heads was approved, effective immediately. Employees would find it in their next pay check.

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