The Polk County Commission, at its Tuesday meeting, ruled that 911 operators should get a pay scale increase for their starting salaries, and on July 1 anyone subsequently hired will now have a pension plan different from that of current employees.
County commissioners voted unanimously at their June 8 regular session to approve the two changes along with a resolution to be sent to the Georgia County Commissioners Association (ACCG) to ensure they are also aware of the change in retirement policy.
The demand for a salary increase on the salary scale put in place by the county after the completion and implementation of a salary study in 2019, and aims to bring the starting salary of 911 dispatchers to a equivalent level with counties in the region.
Commissioner Chuck Thaxton asked during the pre-vote discussion whether the salary of the new 911 dispatchers would be equivalent to those of the Polk County Police or the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, but as explained by the Commissioner Ray Carter, this is not a 1-1 scenario.
While the starting salary will not be the same as that of a certified police officer, it will be equal to or greater than market value, Carter said.
Commissioner Scotty Tillery said he views 911 dispatchers the same as emergency first responders, due to the difficulty of their jobs and the emotional toil they face on a daily basis.
The unanimous vote to increase the salary scale will take effect on July 1.
The same will be true of how new hires will receive retirement benefits. Beginning in early July, anyone hired by the county will upgrade to 457B and 401A plans with no correspondence required up to 4% of an employee’s annual salary, and up to 3% dollar to dollar for employee contributions. . The change comes as a way to ensure that employees who decide to quit their jobs in the county can retire with them and potentially invest it in other funds instead of having to wait for a pension.
Additionally, choosing this avenue for retirement benefits for new hires will also result in 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. each year in contributions to employees who have served their 30s. years.
The resolution provided to the ACCG and approved by the committee also ensured that the ACCG is aware of the changes to the plan and allows them to act on them.
Previously, at the start of the pandemic and after that when the CARES law money was made available to the county and towns, they had to apply for these funds from the state and only received part of what was allocated to each municipality instead of the total amount.
The cities and county have all used the CARES Act dollars to help during pandemic shutdowns to help with salaries, pay for renovation costs to help keep agencies open and employees protected from contact with the public, and other elements linked to reopening strategies, such as PPP gear and thermometer stations, among others.