Despite low revenue growth estimates and numerous budget cuts, Columbia County officials might increase the pay for county employees.
A preliminary budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year includes a 4 percent merit raise for county employees. Overall, the proposed $55 million budget is just a 0.3 percent increase over this fiscal year.
Though officials are predicting just 1.5 percent growth in the county's tax digest, Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson said this month that the raises are possible because of a reorganization of county departments and capital cuts.
"Our first stab at the budget came in low enough for us to go back and calculate in a merit raise, and that balanced the budget," Johnson said. "But I don't know that it will remain in there. It's a long time between now and June" when commissioners likely will vote on the proposed budget.
Some county officials already are making more than the national average for their particular jobs. However, some salaries seem to be based more on market forces and area competition than national averages.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski annually earns $136,801 while corporate chief executives annually earn, on average, about $99,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Szablewski's Augusta counterpart, Fred Russell, earns $136,359 each year. Columbia County schools Superintendent Charles Nagle makes $183,052 a year.
Finance Director Leanne DeLoach annually earns $106,644. By comparison, county school system Controller Pat Sullivan makes about $105,000 a year and Augusta Finance Director Donna Williams annually earns $113,300. On average, financial managers in corporate America earn $58,968 each year, according to labor statistics.
Other county salaries are more in line with national figures.
Human Resources Director Marcia Lowry makes nearly $68,000 annually. The average yearly salary for her corporate counterparts is $64,000, according to the federal labor department.
Richard Harmon is the director of Development Services, which oversees the county's engineering and building needs, and makes nearly $98,000 each year. Engineering managers, according to the national statistics, typically make about $91,000 annually.
Other county workers are somewhat underpaid when compared to the national average. A typical real estate appraiser annually makes about $57,000. Only the county's chief tax appraiser, Deborah Robertson, at an annual salary of $66,852, makes more than the average. No other county appraiser makes more than $37,000 a year.
For a complete list of salaries for county employees, go to http://chronicle.augusta.com/metro/salaries/columbia_county.shtml. For Richmond County salaries, go to http://chronicle.augusta.com/metro/salaries/richmond_county.shtml.
To see the national average of salaries for comparable jobs, visit the Web site of the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov.
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