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Sheriff could receive 'significant' raise

Posted: February 8, 2013 - 5:44pm

Columbia County’s sheriff will become the county’s highest-paid elected official if commissioners approve a proposal up for review next week.

A change in the base salary for the office will give Sheriff Clay Whittle an increase of $16,530 per year, raising his total compensation to $135,760, said County Administrator Scott Johnson.

That will put Whittle’s pay $163 higher than the current highest-paid official, Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.

“It’s a relatively significant pay raise,” Johnson said, and comes because of an effort to clear up a discrepancy in how the base salaries for the county’s elected officials are computed. Johnson said he noticed the disparity when preparing annual letters the commission office sends to elected officials, letting them know how much they’ll make based on cost of living adjustments. He then initiated the proposal to increase Whittle’s base salary.

A change at the state level several years ago raised the base pay for most elected officials to just more than $74,000, but left the sheriff’s base rate at about $53,000, Johnson said. Elected officials receive additional pay based on longevity and cost of living adjustments.

“Clay’s starting at a $20,000 disadvantage,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t equitable.”

Because the sheriff wasn’t included in the state legislation that changed other local officials’ pay, the easiest way to clear it up is to rewrite the local ordinance setting his base salary, Johnson said. A proposal to do that is set to be discussed Tuesday during the meeting of the County Commission’s Management and Financial Services Committee.

“I want to debate this in public,” rather than in a closed commission session, Johnson said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Johnson insisted Whittle didn’t ask for the raise.

“I didn’t realize it,” Whittle said when asked about the disparity in base pay. “But I appreciate what they’re doing.”

He laughed as he recalled that, when elected in 1995, he took a $14,000 pay cut from his previous role as chief deputy.

When he asked why, he was told he had significant longevity and subsequent cost of living adjustments as a chief deputy – but that he was a rookie sheriff.

Before running for the office, Whittle said, “I never asked, ‘how much does sheriff pay?’”

The Management and Financial Services Committee meets at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the Evans Government Center Auditorium.

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Comments (7)

Riverman1

Question

It makes sense to me. I do have a question and hope it doesn't sound like I'm trying to whine about the raise. How much will Whittle make in retirement? To me all type of state and local state retirements are out of control.

soapy_725

A valid question, since taxpayers pay the retirement as well.

We see government salaries posted on line. Retirement packages may be more than active salaries? Golden parachutes for government employees have some municipalities strapped for funds. Private corporation work to control retirement packages as a part of their overall cost. Outsources non essential jobs, etc. Government has no incentive to control cost. More kicking the can.

Whittle and Roundtree will be making close to Nathan Deal's salary. The perks are important information.

Governor of the State of Georgia receives $140K base, plus travel, etc. (approx 35K) Salary should reflect how many people you represent. Right?

Barry Paschal

Retirement

My understanding is that sheriffs pay into a retirement plan through the Georgia Sheriff's Association, and Columbia County employees also can take part in the county's 401k plan. After age 67 Whittle also will be entitled to Social Security, if it still exists.

Soapy, if you believe pay should be based on the number of constituents, I'll await your proposals for either raising the pay of the governor or cutting the pay of sheriffs.

Sweet son

Columbia County didn't want to be outdone.

The commissioners wanted to make sure they appear to be one step ahead of Richmond County and the possibility of a raise for Roundtree.

soapy_725

Salary should reflect how many people you represent. Right?

Barry, it was a question. ??? I do not know the answer to government spending of any kind. It has no logic. The Fortune 500 company that I retired from had a "open system". Pay was not necessarily a function of education, seniority or position. Those who wanted more responsibility and could handle responsibility received same. Our retirement was a PROFIT SHARING plan affected by EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE and paid in total by the company.

Barry Paschal

Few companies do that

Few companies have such retirement plans any more. Most have moved to a 401k or similar plan (as has Columbia County, which eliminated its retirement plan in favor of a 401k about 20 years ago). I wouldn't be surprised if your previous employer hadn't switched to one as well.

csrareader

I have no problem with him

I have no problem with him getting a big raise IF, AND ONLY IF, he can work with the Columbia County Commissioners to EITHER get rid of the current speed hump policy OR work with the Commissioners to have them properly installed. As it stands now, they have absolutely ruined neighborhoods in Columbia County. When you have a speed limit of 25 MPH in a neighborhood and you can't go more than 10-15 MPH due to improperly installed speed humps, you have a neighborhood where it becomes difficult to sell homes. I certainly wouldn't move to Columbia County if given the choice now. It's the lazy way out -- you punish everyone because a few can't follow the law. Because you have a few speeders in neighborhoods, you punish all residents. If you have speeders, what's wrong with writing tickets?

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