The Board of Commissioners unanimously passed Rockdale County’s $55.96 million general fund budget for 2013 but not before heated discussion about the salaries and training funds of newly elected officials.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness proposed reducing the proposed 2013 budget by about $40,000 to reflect the lower salary newly elected officials would be receiving.
New officials will be coming in January for Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, Coroner, Superior Court Judge, Magistrate Judge, Probate Judge. Many of the incumbents they’ll be replacing have served for two decades or more and receive a higher salary than a new official due to longevity.
According to Finance Director Roselyn Miller, only two, possibly three, of those positions’ salaries are set by the county – the Sheriff, Tax Commissioner, and possibly Probate Court judge. The other positions’ salaries are set by state law. The difference in those two or three positions between the incumbents’ salaries and new salaries is about $40,000, she said.
Miller said some of those officials had requested to keep the difference for training needs.
Chairman Richard Oden and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt expressed support for keeping the difference in the budgets of the newly elected officials’ offices. Nesbitt said, “I’m thinking about the initial start up of those offices. I think it’s important it remains in their operating budget.”
Commissioner Van Ness pointed out it wouldn’t be fair to the other newly elected official offices where salaries are not set by the county which might also have additional training needs. She proposed taking the difference and putting into a separate account specifically for training for any office.
“I would rather that be the process so it was fair across the board… that money would go back to other general budget and it could just be requested as they need it,” she said.
Nesbitt said to Van Ness, “Let me just warn you. Let’s be perfectly careful here as we move from 2012 to 2013. Let’s not come up with new items and creating new things that have not existed in the past. Let’s let things be peaceful and fair and equitable as we move forward. We all know as we’ve had a BOC Watch, there’s going to be a Sheriff Watch, a Magistrate Watch… There’s enough watches to make sure there’s physical responsibility. I don’t think we need to start knee jerking and coming up with creative ideas and ways to prohibit these people from being successful.”
“That was not my intent,” said Van Ness.
Nesbitt continued, “Be careful about your approach, attitude and appearance with this issue because that’s the way it appears right now.”