With little notice to the public, Whitfield commissioners give county employees 2% pay raise

Whitfield County employees should see a little something extra in their next paycheck. The Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 on Monday to give employees a 2% pay increase retroactive to July 1.

The pay increase was not on the agenda released to the public on Friday. Board members unanimously voted at the start of Monday's meeting to amend the agenda to include an item called "county employee pay adjustment." There was little discussion of the increase before the vote, but after the meeting, commissioners said they thought it is deserved.

"They (the employees) haven't had an increase in two years," said Commission Roger Crossen. "I'm glad it was put on the agenda."

"They haven't had a raise in two years, and we felt like they deserve one," said Commissioner Greg Jones. 

Commissioners hadn't discussed a pay increase in their recent work sessions, but board Chairman Lynn Laughter said they discussed a pay increase during their budget meetings last year.

"Those meetings were all open to the public," she said, later noting that few people attended them. "No one wanted to do a raise in January. But some of the commissioners said they might do one in July. I reached out to the commissioners individually and they all said they were good with doing 2%. We felt like that was fair. The city of Dalton gave a 2% pay increase in 2017, a 3% pay increase in 2018 and a 3% in 2019. And the raises in 2018 and 2019 started Jan. 1. We've got to give our employees something or we are going to lose them to cities and other counties. I think they should have gotten an increase last year."

The pay increase will cost an estimated $300,000 this year.

"Our revenue is coming in ahead of projections and our expenses are lower, so I think we can afford it," Laughter said.

Through May 31, county revenues were $13.2 million, compared to a projected $12.5 million. Expenditures were $17.8 million, compared to a projected $18.1 million. The county typically gets much of its revenue toward the end of the year when property tax payments come in.

Commissioners defended voting for the pay increase after amending the agenda to add the measure.

 "We had an open meeting. It was put on the agenda as a potential item by the chairwoman, and we voted to amend the agenda (to include the pay increase)," said Commissioner Barry Robbins.

"I think it was done the right way," said Jones. "We voted on it in public."

Laughter noted that it is not uncommon for commissioners to amend their agendas, either adding items or taking them off.

Dalton Tea Party organizer Naomi Swanson, who was one of only a half dozen people at the meeting, said she supports the pay increase.

"They haven't had a raise in two years," she said. "I think it is deserved. But I do think the public should have been given more advance notice so that anyone who wanted to speak out on the proposal could do so, at least two weeks notice." 

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