COVINGTON — Newton County employees could see a 4.5% pay increase in fiscal year 2022, if the final tax digest numbers will support it.

All five commissioners said they are in favor of the pay increase, with the proviso that they may need to reduce the percentage when the budget numbers are finalized.

The county is considering a proposed fiscal year 2022 budget of $79.4 million, which is about $5 million more than the general fund budget adopted by the board for fiscal year 2021.

Commissioners discussed the pay increase and the number of new positions requested by departments in fiscal year 2022 at a budget work session April 20.

County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the 4.5% is necessary in order to keep the county’s pay scale on a competitive track.

“When we started this pay system four years ago, we were in most cases 15 to 20% behind the competition in pay scale,” said Kerr.

Kerr said the county has begun to close the gap with comparable governments in the area by giving annual increases of 2% to 2.5%. But this year he sees a need to take a bigger step.

“We believe that we need to do this in order to get our employees competitive and maintan those salary levels and those benefits,” said Kerr. “I am confident that this year we will have reached that competitive market salary for almost all of our positions.”

Kerr also recommended that commissioners approve the addition of 12 positions in various government departments and 23 in Fire Services in order to staff two new fire stations in the county. He said some other positions would be converted from part-time to full-time and reclassified.

Many more new positions were requested — 24 in the Sheriff’s Office, 99 in Fire Services, five in the Tax Commissioner’s Office, six in Public Works, four in Development Services, two in GIS, and one each in Information Services and Elections.

Kerr said he is not recommending additional positions in the Sheriff’s Office because the department currently has about 24 open positions.

“I can’t see a need to keep adding positions,” he said.

District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan said he would like Kerr to “identify the (new positions) we’ve got to have versus the ones we’d like to have.”

“The ones we have recommended … are the ones that really have come back as needed,” said Kerr. He added that the number of positions requested is “far more than we could ever afford.”

Commissioners asked that Kerr revisit the recommended new positions to ensure that they are needed.

“I have thrown the necessary darts at this (budget) myself, so, yes, please go back and take a look … let’s find out what we really need,” said District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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