Bibb County commissioners are launching a new pay plan for county employees and are informally promising to pay fairly the workers moving from Macon employment in the coming months.
But county officials said the former city employees’ paychecks might not be as high once they transition to employment with Bibb County.
The new county pay scale, with an annual cost of about $938,000, is scheduled to start March 1. The measure was approved in a 4-1 vote Tuesday with Commissioner Lonzy Edwards voting against it. Edwards said commissioners hadn’t discussed payroll funding, and funding the pay scale could force a tax increase.
It’s not clear what the new scale -- technically just the first phase of several potential stages -- could mean for employees moving from a handful of Macon departments, including recreation. Some 142 positions are expected to be affected in a transition scheduled for July 1.
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Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said the plan is to treat former city employees as county employees are treated. That won’t necessarily mean they’ll get the same pay they’re getting now as Macon employees, though they’ll get credit for their Macon experience.
“Will they be making more or less? We don’t know,” Layson said. “Will they be equal with their county counterpart? Yes.”
Tuesday evening, Macon City Council voted 14-0 to rush through a resolution -- authored by Councilwoman Elaine Lucas -- urging the county to give transferred city employees “credit” on pensions for their years of city service.
Lucas said she knows the city couldn’t mandate county cooperation, but that her resolution sought to bring city and county officials together to work out a system to preserve seniority for longtime city employees instead of treating them as new hires as it relates to their pensions.
The Middle Georgia Regional Commission is studying how those employees would make the switch and how they would fit onto the county pay scale. Laura Mathis with the Regional Commission said that traditionally, workers making a transition are placed onto the pay plan closest, but not below, their current pay.
Bibb County commissioners did not vote formally on such a proposal, but no one disagreed in committee discussions Tuesday.
Sheriff Jerry Modena told The Telegraph the new pay plan is critical for morale and recruitment in his office. Deputies’ starting pay is at $25,688 now, and some candidates won’t take the job at that amount.
“When everybody around us seems to be getting $28,000 and on up, we’re trying to get the best people in here to us,” Modena said.
Edwards said he wants to wait on the pay scale until after commissioners find the money, but that conversation hasn’t even begun. Edwards talked about the possibility of a tax increase and said the county has to be fair to employees and retirees, but also to taxpayers.
“You’ve got to find a way to pay for it,” he said. “I’m all for equity, but you can’t spend money we don’t have.”
The county’s current budget is balanced by drawing down financial reserves, despite a 2-mill tax increase.
Commission Chairman Sam Hart said the county needs to decide which pay scale to use before the Macon transition can be planned. Hart said he hopes to find more savings by making departments run more efficiently, finding ways to reduce costs in the county’s insurance programs and perhaps studying further tweaks to retirement benefits for new hires.
Telegraph writer Jim Gaines contributed to this report.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.