Clayton County could see pay raises and tax hikes in FY 2015

JONESBORO — Clayton County commissioners discussed a salary raise for county employees and possible tax raises for residents at the first meeting to review a draft of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget Tuesday evening.

The 3 percent raise — called a cost of living adjustment — for county employees would be the first since FY 2008, when county workers were awarded a 2.5 percent raise. Elected officials are included in the county employee category.

“There is a 3 percent increase for the elected officials on the county paid portion of any salary or supplement that we currently pay them,” said Clayton County Chief Financial Officer Ramona Thurman at Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioners won’t see that raise.

Clayton County taxes may see a raise, too, but nothing’s set in stone yet.

On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be any indication of a tax hike. As it’s drafted now, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget keeps the base millage rate the same as in 2014 — at 20.95. The budget shows the county has more taxable property than in 2014, which should mean that each resident would need to pay fewer tax dollars in order for the county to arrive at the same revenue.

But the county will also receive less money from the Local Option Sales Tax than it did in 2014, meaning that taxpayers will need to pay the difference. Whether or not each individual resident will see a hike in tax prices isn’t definite yet.

The final tax numbers will also depend on whether Southern Regional Medical Center needs additional financial help. Taxpayers bailed out the struggling hospital when they voted in favor of the 2015 SPLOST, which put $50 million toward making up for losses the hospital experienced because of the unfunded federal mandate to provide emergency room care to patients who can’t pay for it.

SPLOST money alone might not be enough to keep the hospital afloat.

“We would have to discuss that further and talk about a couple features in terms of whether or not we are going to raise the millage to offset or mitigate their future losses,” said Chairman Jeff Turner at Tuesday’s meeting. “But that’s not a part of this budget.”

The commissioners don’t have to worry about settling the millage rate discussion just yet. The budget is set to be approved June 17, but commissioners won’t approve the millage rate until their July 15 board meeting. The county will hold public meetings July 8 at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and July 15 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss all millage-rate related issues.