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Magistrate judges to get raises
Hikes meant to bring salaries in line with other pay rate adjustments
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Commissioners last week approved a request to increase salaries for the county's two fulltime magistrate judges.

Chief Magistrate Lisa Thurmond said she was thrilled and surprised by the decision.

"I've been asking a long time for this. I am pleased the commissioners realized this was something they needed to take care of," she said.

According to the motion made by Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix, Thurmond will receive an $8,000 increase, while Associate Magistrate Tony Tarnacki's raise was approved at $5,384 annually.

Thurmond had asked that both judges receive a $12,000 supplement, noting that their current salaries fall below that of the county's department supervisors, which were adjusted in accordance with a recent salary study.

The county commission in 2015 approved the use of $330,000 to increase salaries for employees who had at least six months of employment with the county.

While the magistrate judges were not included in the county's 2014 salary study, Thurmond said she was asking for the same "fair and equitable adjustments."

Tarnacki was the only non-elected employee of the county that did not receive an increase.

In accordance with Georgia law, an associate magistrate can only make 90 percent of the chief magistrate's salary. For Tarnacki to have received a raise, Thurmond also would have needed an increase, and that was not approved at the time.

Thurmond said the judges' salaries also fall below those of assistant district attorneys, who present cases to them.

"To be honest here, [Judge Tarnacki has] been offered positions with the district attorney's office and from day one, would make more money than after working eight years in magistrate court," Thurmond said.

In addition to presiding over civil court cases such as evictions, small claims and garnishments, magistrate judges are also charged with conducting first appearance, bond and preliminary hearings, as well as signing off on search warrants.

"We work a lot of hours and even with the addition of our part-time judge this year, we still worked 2,508 hours each a year," Thurmond said. "In fact, Judge Tarnacki is on call this week, and when we leave here in a couple of hours, he's still on call."