Bibb County commissioners agreed Tuesday to hire dozens of Macon employees, with an estimated personnel cost of $5 million.
But when those employees move to the county with their departments July 1, they’ll be starting over as new county employees. All employees will automatically be hired, but they’ll begin with a six-month probation period, no vested pensions and salaries that likely will be lower.
In all, some 142 positions are being considered for the transition, including 90 current full-time employees. Bibb County commissioners’ plan to adopt smaller departments were quashed Tuesday when consultant Laura Mathis and Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said there’s no way to fine-tune the operation of the departments before they get adopted. Layson originally hoped to run the departments with less staff at the beginning of the switch, saying he believes the departments can be run more efficiently.
Mathis, who works with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said details of the transition will consume nearly all the time available before the July 1 transition.
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“That’s more than can be done, and done well, in six months. It’s more likely for you to take over operations July 1 and then going forward making those programs to be the programs you want them to be,” Mathis said.
The city has already frozen vacant positions, leaving the county some flexibility in how it will adopt the five departments: recreation, inspection and fees, traffic engineering, engineering and animal control.
The department moves were mandated by a service delivery agreement that hinged on passage of a special purpose local option sales tax, which voters approved in November.
Commissioners balked at implementing a pay plan for all county employees until salary costs for the city employees can be calculated. County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said he expects a vote on the pay plan at the commissioners’ Jan. 3 meeting. That vote has already been deferred several times.
At the levels of their city pay matched with average Bibb County pension and health care costs, the tab for the city employees would run $4,978,392.72 each year, Mathis said.
The biggest department by far is recreation, which has 51 full-time employees.
Commissioners rejected an option to lease employees from the city, and another option that would have given them credit for their years of service with the city.
Instead, the selected plan will allow human resources staff to pick within a salary range to give credit for advanced degrees or experience “but it’s not that you’re giving them credit for 20 years’ experience and 20 years of service,” Mathis said.
The transitioning employees would receive the same benefits as another just-hired county employee. Commissioners cut those benefits in April, lowering the pension benefit, increasing the retirement age to 65 and cutting health insurance for retirees hired in the new system.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.