There is even a Facebook page linked to this cause. The link tells how little it will cost each taxpayer to make these raises happen. The link says it will only cost each taxpayer a little over $3.
However, politically, a tax increase is a tax increase. So, we either pay slightly higher taxes or continue to lose public safety employees to higher paying agencies.
My opinion is based on the assumption the numbers on the Facebook page are accurate.
I firmly believe our public safety officials are underpaid. They deserve more money. This doesn’t apply to our public safety commanders, as many of them are making six figures. And many that aren’t are making close to it.
My empathy is with the women and men that are actually out on the streets doing their job and keeping us safe. They start out in the mid-$30,000, while other departments in metro Atlanta offer significantly more.
Therefore, I have no problem paying more taxes to help give raises to our local heroes. However, I wouldn’t stop there and feel sure the commissioners have already thought about what I am getting ready to say.
If they decide to agree to this increase, there is not a doubt they will alienate many of the non-public safety employees working for the county.
Admittedly, no other departments have the same danger level as do fire and law enforcement. But this statement in no way should lessen our knowledge that every job has its drawbacks and some even come with some level of danger.
Those working at the animal shelter do so knowing that there is always a level of risks involved in their jobs. They do so with a penitence of the pay of public safety officials. Try raising a family on a salary closer to $20,000 than one of $30,000.
Animal control officers deal with dangerous animals on a weekly basis. They get hurt. They get bit. And they do so for less than $30,000 a year.
This column won’t allow me the room to touch every department. But there are many county positions that pay in the $20,000-range, give or take a few thousand either way.
So instead of increasing my taxes by $3 dollars for public safety, I had rather the commissioners increase it by $10 in order to bring every department to the level it should be. For again, a tax increase is a tax increase.
The commissioners have held our taxes low for years. It would be negligent for anyone to think politics hasn’t been the big drive behind that thinking.
But you can’t run a county without good employees. You can’t retain good employees without giving them competitive pay. So it is time we as residents understand if we want to continue to get superior service, it has to be paid for.
The Facebook page is also asking all of public safety and their families to show up at the commission meetings to show their support.
I am in full support for raises for all county employees to get them all in line with other metro counties. But I do not support a mass gathering at the commission meeting, as I believe it is more for the purpose of intimidation than showing support.
The commissioners have their work cut out for them. If they only bring public safety up to metro standards, they alienate the other employees. If they bring all departments to where they should be in salaries, the tax increase must be greater which could cost them come election time. If they do nothing, we will continue to lose good employees.
So the question must be answered as to what are more important, retaining employees or retaining their seat on the board. It’s a crapshoot for them no matter how you look at it.
Cherokee County has some of the best trained and most professional public safety employees in the state. At the same time, they have some of the best employees in the state in every department.
In conclusion, I’m against blanket raises. I am for evaluating every position and job function and paying accordingly. Then again, it is only my opinion.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.