July 2016, Vol.10 , No.7 Past issues | Subscribe | Printer Friendly | Advertise | eMagazine Archives
Computing County Official Salaries for 2017 Is Now Available

ACCG Salary Guide. Each year, ACCG prepares a guide to assist county budget officials and payroll officials in calculating county official salaries in accordance with Georgia law. The Computing County Official Salaries for 2017 is now available. The salary guide includes information on salaries for county commissioners, coroners, magistrates, probate judges, sheriffs, superior court clerks, and tax commissioners. It addresses compensation, per diems and supplements required or authorized for bailiffs, board of tax assessors, board of equalization, circuit public defenders, jurors, juvenile court judges, state court judges, solicitors, superior court judges and voter registrars. This guide has been reviewed and approved by the County Officer Association of Georgia, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and the Magistrate Council.

As budgets are being prepared for 2017, county budget officers trying to calculate 2017 salaries for county elected officials and appointed magistrate judges should be aware of some of the increases in salaries that will happen on January 1, 2017. Any questions regarding the application of the information in this guide to a particular county or county official should be directed at the county attorney.

Population Changes. Each year, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) publishes updated population estimates for each county. Counties must use the most recent population numbers to calculate salaries for the sheriff, superior court clerk, tax commissioner, probate judge and magistrate judge. In some cases, the new population estimate could result in a higher base salary for these officers.

Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). The cost of living increase for county officials whose minimum salary is established by state law (i.e., coroner, magistrate, probate judge, sheriff, superior court clerk, and tax commissioner) and for county commissioners is calculated based upon the amount of cost of living increases and/or general performance increases awarded to state employees. Once the General Assembly passes the appropriations bill and it is signed by the Governor, the Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) calculates the average cost of living increases and/or general performance increase given to state employees. State employees received a 3% merit increase for high performing employees, which translates into a 3% COLA for county elected officials. Although state employee may receive their increase on July 1, 2016, the COLA for county officials is not effective until January 1, 2017.

Longevity Increases.

County Elected Official and Appointed Magistrate Salaries Generally. In general, the General Assembly sets the salaries of commissioners (except those who use their home rule authority), coroners, magistrate judges, probate judges, sheriffs, superior court judges and tax commissioners either by state law or through local legislation. For most county elected officials, there is a base salary based upon population to which state mandated supplements are added if the official performs additional duties established in law. Depending upon the number of terms completed, a county official may receive a longevity increase – typically, a 5% longevity increase for each term served up to a maximum specified in law. If the General Assembly approves a cost of living adjustment (COLA), then the salary is increased by the amount of the COLA (and all COLAs given in the years since the base salary was last adjusted).

Regular Longevity Increase. When putting together the 2017 budget, county budget officials should be aware that commissioners, coroners, magistrate judges, probate judges, sheriffs, superior court clerks, and tax commissioners who complete a full term and are re-elected this year will be entitled to an additional 5% longevity increase in salary – as long as they have not reached the longevity cap (see below).

Automatic Increase in the Longevity Cap for Long Serving County Officials. Long serving county elected officials and appointed magistrates are subject to a cap on the total number of 5% longevity increases that they can receive – regardless of how many terms they serve. However, every two to six years, the cap is automatically increased. Effective January 1, 2017, the following county officials will be entitled to an increase in total longevity if they have served the appropriate number of terms and are re-elected:

County Commissioners. Commissioners who are elected to serve two year terms that complete six or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 7.5% (previously, 6.25%). Commissioners who are elected to four or six year terms have a different longevity formula and schedule. They will not be entitled to a longevity cap increase until January 1, 2019.

Magistrates. Magistrate judges who complete six or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 30% (previously 25%). Probate judges serving as magistrate judges who complete five or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 25% (previously 20%) on their supplement for serving as magistrate judge.

Probate Judges. Probate judges who complete ten or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 50% (previously 45%).

Probate judges who serve as magistrate judges and complete five or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 25% (previously 20%) on their supplement for serving as magistrate judge.

Sheriffs. Sheriffs who complete ten or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 50% (previously 45%).

Superior Court Clerks. Superior court clerks who complete ten or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 50% (previously 45%).

Tax Commissioners. Tax commissioners who complete ten or more terms on December 31, 2016 will be entitled to a maximum longevity increase of 50% (previously 45%).

Future Longevity Increases. Coroners will not be eligible for an increase in maximum longevity until January 1, 2018. Commissioners who are elected to four or six year terms will not be eligible for an increase in maximum longevity until January 1, 2019. The officials listed above receiving the 2017 increase will be eligible for another increase in the maximum longevity on January 1, 2021.

O.C.G.A. § 15-16-20(a)(1).
O.C.G.A. § 15-6-88(a).
O.C.G.A. § 48-5-183(b)(1).
O.C.G.A. § 15-9-63(a)(1).
O.C.G.A. § 15-10-23(a)(2).
See, O.C.G.A. § 1-3-4.1.

State law allows for an increase to longevity for each full term completed after a "starting date" specified in law. Each county elected office has its own "starting date" to calculate longevity, ranging from 1977 to 2004. This allows the maximum longevity to be automatically increased every four years – except for commissioners elected to two year terms (who have their maximum longevity increased every two years) and commissioners elected to six year terms (who have their maximum longevity increased every six years). Each office has a maximum number of terms completed since the starting date that can be used to calculate longevity.
O.C.G.A. § 36-5-29.
O.C.G.A. § 15-10-23(b).
O.C.G.A. § 15-9-63.1(c).
O.C.G.A. § 15-9-65.
O.C.G.A. § 15-9-63.1(c).
O.C.G.A. § 15-16-20(b).
O.C.G.A. § 15-6-90(a).
O.C.G.A. § 48-5-183(b).
O.C.G.A. § 45-16-11(b).
O.C.G.A. § 36-5-29.

Effectively Manage County’s Risk through Contractual Risk Transfer

When undertaking any project or business transaction, significant risks and financial consequences are present. Those risks can be effectively managed through contractual risk transfer, which is the approach of combining the non-insurance risk transfer methods of indemnification and hold harmless clauses with insurance risk transfer. This article summarizes the basics of managing proper contractual insurance requirements for your county.

In many contract situations, insurance is the only source of funds available for another party to honor its indemnity obligations, so it is critical that the insurance requirements are properly drafted and included in each contract. Considerations for all contract situations are as follows:

1.Determine desired insurance requirements by contract type. Construction contracts and those for professional services or special events, for example, will have differences in the types of insurance that are needed. A few different standard requirement templates will be adequate to address most contracts. The templates will detail all coverage types, limits, and special policy provisions that are required.

2.Address any special or unique risks. Some contracts will inherently present greater exposure to frequent losses or potentially severe losses, such as those with large crowd exposures, hazardous materials, or significant construction. Those contracts involving access to sensitive data or information also present unique risks. A risk assessment checklist and limits matrix will help determine when to require additional types of insurance or higher limits.

3.Provide insurance requirements as soon as possible. It is important that other parties are aware of the insurance requirements of the county early so that they can adequately obtain the required coverage and account for any potential increased costs. It is a best practice to include the requirements in a Request For Proposal or other solicitation process, reducing negotiation time and increasing compliance once the contract has been awarded.

4.Obtain certificates of insurance and verify. Use a certificate checklist to easily help determine that the coverages, named insured, insurance carrier, and policy effective dates are adequate. It is important to obtain recently issued certificates prior to starting work, and it is recommended to receive the certificates directly from an authorized insurance representative to ensure authenticity. Updated certificates should be obtained at appropriate intervals such as semi-annually throughout each contract for proactive certificate management. Reserve the right to obtain full copies of the policy and/or endorsements to verify coverage is as described on the certificate of insurance.

For more information on contractual risk transfer, attend one of the Contracts for Local Governments classes offered by LGRMS during July and August. For class dates and registration, please visit the LGRMS Event Calendar. A Local Government Contracting and Risk Management Manual will be provided.

Sales Tax: A Statewide Overview of Georgia Counties

This article is the first in a two part series that takes an in depth look at sales tax in Georgia

Sales tax is the second largest source of revenue for county government in Georgia. According to county survey results collected by the Department of Community Affairs in the 2014 Report of Local Government Finances, sales tax made up 18% of overall county revenues.

There are a number of sales tax options for counties to utilize. As such, counties have opted to use various combinations. There are also a number of counties that use sales tax for education through an ESPLOST or ELOST. While there is generally a 2% cap restriction on most county sales tax, there are some exceptions.

Of the various types of sales tax available to counties, the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) are the most popular with 92.45% of counties currently levying a LOST and 95.6% of counties currently levying a SPLOST. Sales tax for education are also popular with 97.48% of counties currently levying an Education Special Purpose Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) and eight counties provide their LOST proceeds to the school system in their county. Forty-six counties levy the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST), representing 28.93% of counties statewide. At present, only two counties have a Homestead Option Sales Tax and three counties levy the MARTA tax.

In terms of popular combination of taxes, 137 counties currently levy a LOST, SPLOST, and ESPLOST; 11 counties levy a SPLOST and ESPLOST; 6 counties levy a LOST and ESPLOST and 4 counties levy a LOST and SPLOST. The map found here provides an overview of all sales tax levied by county as of July 1, 2016.

Additional information on the sales tax rate by county and the enactment and termination dates for sales tax by county can be found in the Distributions Section of the Georgia Department of Revenue Local Government Services Division Website.

Georgia County Internship Program Spotlight

Chattahoochee Technical College Student, Deborah Long, Interns with Pickens County Planning and Development Department

Deborah Long, a finance and accounting major at Chattahoochee Technical College, interned with the Pickens County Planning and Development Department during the 2015 Summer Georgia County Internship Program.

While Long was familiar with various aspects of county government prior to her internship, she did not have any previous knowledge of the inner workings of the planning and development department. Over the course of her internship, Long learned about the operations of this department as she was tasked with researching and summarizing zoning changes using spreadsheets and maps. This project further allowed Long to utilize her Excel skills and taught her how to locate parcels on a map.

When asked about her most significant accomplishment during the internship, Long remarked that it was the ability to work effectively to accomplish goals and to help contribute towards those goals set by the department. Long noted that her favorite part of the internship was the personal interactions she had with fellow co-workers and other departments.

One of the seminal aspects of the internship was the continued development of her interpersonal skills and the networking opportunities that were afforded to her. While Pickens County did not have any available positions in her field, neighboring county, Gilmer, did. After being encouraged to apply for the position by the planning and development staff, Long was offered a position with the Office of the Gilmer County Tax Commissioner which she accepted.

For more information on the GCIP, please visit the ACCG Civic Affairs Foundation website at http://www.civicaffairs.org.

Andrew Young School Assistant Dean to Lead Session on Cost Analysis

Cynthia Searcy, the assistant dean for academic programs at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School, will be leading a two-day session on cost analysis in August.

The session introduces participants to the concepts, data, and skills needed to perform cost analysis for their government agency, department, municipality or school district. The course is part at of the Center for State and Local Finance’s executive education program in public finance.

Searcy, who is also an assistant professor, specializes in financial management and budgeting, education policy, and health policy. Her recent research examines the financial health and financial management practices of charter schools and U.S. cities.

Prior to joining the Andrew Young School, she was a research associate for the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University.

To register or learn more about Searcy’s cost analysis session, visit: http://cslf.gsu.edu/training/special-sessions/ or email cslf@gsu.edu.

Mauldin & Jenkins
ACCG, Georgia's County Association
191 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 700
Atlanta, GA 30303
phone: 404-522-5022 | fax: 404-525-2477 | ACCG.org

We would appreciate your comments or suggestions. Your email will be kept private and confidential.