Albany - A raise for Dougherty County employees is in the works. Dougherty County's Police Chief is asking for additional money for his officers.
Dougherty County is now coming up with next year's budget. The County Administrator hopes to include a 2.5% raise for employees. The problem is the county's tax base isn't growing, and commissioners will have to dip into reserves to balance the budget.
When you have higher costs and less money coming in from property taxes, your options to balance the budget are limited. That could mean a property tax hike for Dougherty County homeowners. But with this being an election year, county commissioners say they won't let that happen.
Dougherty County's Police Chief says there's only one sure way to recruit new officers and keep the good ones. "The only way we're going to be able to do that is through better benefits, better pay and better working conditions," said Chief Don Cheek.
Chief Don Cheek is requesting the County raise salaries for all officers, from entry level patrolman to the upper brass, by 2%. That would increase the starting salary to about $26,000 a year.
"I feel our people do need to be compensated. I think it's going to be a serious issue."
It's a serious issue county commissioners will debate as they start setting the budget for the upcoming year.
"We face pressures there, and have faced them for the last several year," said County Administrator Richard Crowdis.
County Administrator Richard Crowdis says he also wants to include a 2.5% raise for all county employees in next year's budget.
Richard Crowdis said, "Where Dougherty County used to be ahead of the curve, we're beginning to fall behind the curve. So merit increases are absolutely necessary this year."
But paying for a raise will be tough. The County continues to see costs, from health insurance to retirement, go up while tax revenue remains stagnant. To balance the budget, the county expects to have to dip its reserves and slash costs.
"We went through the recession, and we've been through some lean times," said Crowdis.
To make money, commissioners will at least have to look at raising property taxes.
"That will absolutely be the last alternative," said Crowdis. Instead, commissioners will likely continue to rely on the County's $12-million savings fund to keep employees and taxpayers happy.
Another big expense for the County will be adding more employees. Various departments requested 27 new positions. That includes the three positions at the District Attorney's Office that were cut when Open Arms pulled it funding for the child felony prosecution team.