The Polk County Commission during their Tuesday meeting decided that 911 operators should get an increase on the pay scale for their starting salaries, and come July 1 anyone hired following that will now have a different retirement plan than current employees.
County Commissioners voted unanimously during their regular session on June 8 to approve both of the changes along with a resolution to send along to the Association of County Commissions of Georgia (ACCG) to ensure they know of the change in retirement policy as well.
The request for an increase in salaries on the pay scale the county put in place after a pay study was completed and implemented in 2019, and seeks to bring the starting pay for 911 dispatchers up to a level equivalent with counties around the area.
Commissioner Chuck Thaxton asked during discussion ahead of the vote whether the pay for new 911 dispatchers would be equivalent to those serving in the Polk County Police or Polk County Sheriff’s Office, but as Commissioner Ray Carter explained, it is not a 1-to-1 scenario.
While starting pay won’t be the same as a certified police officer, it will equal or exceed the market value, Carter said.
Commissioner Scotty Tillery said that he sees 911 dispatchers in the same light as first responders to an emergency, due to the difficulty of their jobs and the emotional toil they face on a daily basis.
The unanimous vote for the pay scale increase will go into effect on July 1.
So will a change to the way that new hires will receive retirement benefits. Effective at the start of July, anyone hired by the county will go onto a 457B and 401A plans with no match required up to 4% of the annual salary of an employee, and up to 3% match dollar-to-dollar for employee contributions. The change comes as a way to ensure that employees who decide to leave county employ can take their retirement with them and potentially invest it in other funds instead of having to wait on a pension.
Additionally, choosing this avenue for retirement benefits for new hires will also see a decrease over time in the amount of pension funds the county has to keep on the books and reduce the amount of taxpayer money spent annually on contributions to employees who have served their 30 years.
The resolution provided to ACCG approved by the commission as well ensured that ACCG is aware of the plan changes and to allow them to act accordingly.
Among the other financial matters undertaken during the June 8 session was the official approval of funds from the federal and state government from the American Rescue Plan. The money – signed for by County Manager Matt Denton in May – comes with terms and conditions for its use but was provided directly from the U.S. Treasury.
Previously amid the start of the pandemic and following that when CARES Act money was made available to the county and cities, they had to seek those funds from the state and only received a portion of what was allocated to each municipality instead of the full amount.
The cities and county all took CARES Act dollars to use to help during the pandemic closures to help with salaries, paying for remodeling costs to help keep agencies open and employees protected from contact with the public, and other items related to reopening strategies, like PPP gear and thermometer stations, among others.