Results from a recent salary study show pay for workers in many Dawson County government positions lags behind the suggested minimum standards.
The study prepared by The Archer Company, a consulting firm specializing in human resource management, compared salaries to those of governments in neighboring Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin and Pickens counties, as well as the nearby cities of Canton, Cumming, Dahlonega, Ellijay, Gainesville and Jasper.
The county employs 322 workers with salaries totaling $10.9 million in 2013.
According to County Manager Cindy Campbell, the findings indicate that it would take about $133,000 to bring all positions to Archer's suggested minimum range with a 10 percent increase cap, or $173,000 without the cap.
"We're proposing in the 2015 budget, a [cost-of-living adjustment]," Campbell said. "And then after the COLA, we're looking at the cost to minimum, not to exceed 10 percent. Everyone will get 2 percent. Some will get up to 10 percent to get to the minimum."
To bring salaries to Archer's target range would cost about $489,000, after increasing to the minimum with the 10 percent cap.
"We couldn't focus on getting to target this year. We're focusing on the minimum," Campbell said. "Once we can get everybody up to their minimum, we can look beyond that and see what the next step is."
A breakdown of the salary study shows employees at the senior center, public works, park and recreation, Magistrate Court and sheriff's office requiring greater increases to reach minimums.
The process that reviewed the salaries for the study included questionnaires to each employee asking them to describe their job tasks. Separate questionnaires sent to managers asked who they thought might be underpaid based on job duties.
A similar salary study was commissioned several years ago, though employees have complained the county never followed through on the findings.
Campbell reassured county employees, many who have not had pay increases in more than six years, that will not be the case this time.
"I've heard a lot of people say that a salary study was done in the past and then it kind of just stood still," she said. "And that's not the intention with this.
"This is our first step in moving forward and we want to continue to update it and continue to move forward."
During his recent presentation of the county's proposed budget for 2015, Commission Chair Mike Berg recommended a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for all full- and part-time staff, as well as salary adjustments based on the study.
The plan also calls for performance increases for employees that go above and beyond in their duties
There are two required public hearings, scheduled for Nov. 6 and 20, before the commission could approve the budget. If approved, the salary increases would take effect Jan. 1.
"I've heard a lot of positive comments, and I've heard a lot of negative comments," Campbell said. "I think this is the first step in the right direction, because we haven't had raises in so long. I think it tries to clear up internal inequities."