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Judges ask for pay supplement

Posted: December 16, 2015 - 12:17am

Columbia County commissioners approved a pay supplement for Superior Court judges on Tuesday.

The judges in the Augusta Judicial Circuit requested a $10,000 each as a supplement to their state salaries. Each of the three counties in the circuit – Columbia, Richmond and Burke – pays a supplement to the judges.

“The reason that have to done this is because there has been a change in state law that effective Jan. 1, there can be no additional county supplements to Superior Court Judges,” county Administrator Scott Johnson said at a Dec. 8 Management and Financial Services Committee meeting. “This has to do with pay inequities across the state. Some counties give more supplements that we do. Some counties don’t give any at all. So you have Superior Court judges that are all over the board as to what they make and the Legislature wanted to take a step to try and mitigate that.”

There are eight active judges, excluding senior judges, in the circuit – Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet, Carl C. Brown Jr., James G. Blanchard Jr., Michael N. Annis, Sheryl B. Jolly, J. David Roper, Daniel J. Craig and J. Wade Padgett.

Johnson said the judges each asked for and received a $10,000 in 2000 and again in 2007. Richmond County has paid $40,000 and Burke County paid out $5,100 to each judge.

The recent request will total $30,000 in supplementary income paid to each judge, a grand total of $240,000, since 2000.

“You can break that up,” Johnson said. “You can break that up if you decide to. You don’t have to have $10,000 in one year. You can make it effective in subsequent fiscal years if you choose to do that.”

That’s what commissioners chose to do Tuesday night, giving judges a $5,000 raise effective July 2016 and another $5,000 raise effective July 2017.

The judges are worth the investment, Johnson said, as they hear felony cases as well as misdemeanor cases. Some counties use a state court to try misdemeanors.

Johnson said it would take about $1 million to set up the court to hear the misdemeanors including the judges, staff, space and a solicitor staff.

The annual maintenance cost can exceed $500,000-$600,000 a year, he said.

“I think this is probably a good thing particularly in light of those judges doing duty the same as state court,” Cross said.

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