Automatic pay hike for DeKalb commissioners, CEO proposed

DeKalb County commissioners and CEO Mike Thurmond could be in line for pay raises this year that would also give them automatic boosts in the future.

Commissioners have asked for years to have their salaries set at a percentage of what superior court judges make, which the DeKalb House delegation is now considering. The bill would pay commissioners a salary equal to 40 percent of what judges earn and the chief executive officer at 90 percent.

If the bill becomes law, whenever the General Assembly approves salary increases for superior court judges the annual pay for commissioners and the chief executive would rise, too. This would allow commissioners to avoid the politically touchy process of approving their own pay increases, but the money would still come from the DeKalb County budget.

Rep. Billy Mitchell, the bill sponsor, said during Monday’s delegation meeting that even if judges’ pay is held flat commissioners would see their salaries rise to $62,000, up from their current base of $40,530. He said Thurmond’s salary would increase roughly 3 percent from $162,120 to $166,478.

No copy of the legislation was available during the meeting, which raised the ire of Rep. Doreen Carter, who asked why members had not been briefed.

“I’m getting questions about the raises, and I don’t recall hearing it in the delegation meeting,” Carter, D-Lithonia, said.

Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, said that the bill was vetted during the delegation’s Policy Committee meeting, and now it’s time for all 17 members to weigh in. He needs at least nine to agree to sign onto the bill because a majority of the delegation’s approval is needed before it can go to the full House.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received a copy of the proposed bill after the meeting. Commissioners could be in line for a pay increase much larger than what Mitchell indicated.

It remains to be seen whether the percentages will be applied to judges’ base pay, which is $126,265, or their salary including local supplements, which is $184,677.

If it’s the base rate, Thurmond’s pay would decrease substantially and commissioners would be due $50,506, which is a 25-percent raise. However, if the judges’ larger salary is used in the formula, Thurmond gets the 3-percent boost and commissioners’ get an even larger increase to $73,990.

Mitchell could not be reached after the meeting to clarify which number is being used.

If there aren’t enough delegation members to support the proposal in its current form, the bill could be amended or dropped all together, he said earlier.

“At the end of the day, they may have raises, they may have lower salaries or they may have nothing at all,” Mitchell said.

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