Legislative pay raises a bother to chairman

By Justin Boron

Several Clayton County state and local court officials will likely receive pay raises from the legislative session that County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell says are going to be difficult to bear as the county government attempts to trim down next year's budget to avoid dramatic tax increases.

With the governor still yet to sign the bills, local legislators say the raises were intended to make the county's judges and court official's salary commensurate with other counties in the metro area.

The county's four Superior Court judges received a $5,000 raise in their county supplement, making their total annual salary $143,245.37.

All subsequent salary increases for court officials are incremented on the Superior Court position.

The county's latest financial analysis of the raises puts the total financial burden for the county at $102,741.36. The amount includes both salaries and the additional benefits the county would pay.

But since the analysis was prepared on March 30, the General Assembly has ended its session.

Three of the proposed raises were unable to pass both houses in time.

With the session ending a day early, Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale said she could not get raises for the state court judge, the district attorney and the solicitor through both houses.

She said she would ask Bell to grant the pay increases until the next legislative session.

Bell would not say whether he would accommodate the request or not.

He did say he blamed the local legislative delegation for not consulting the county commission before proceeding with the raises

"It's bothersome," he said.

Beyond the raises, other financial constraints, including a bill to limit fuel sales tax collections and fallout from the sheriff's legal debacle, have made the budget process all the more difficult, he said.

Nevertheless, Bell said he is convinced he will produce a revenue neutral budget in the coming months.