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More Augusta officials seek raises

Judges, clerk of court make case to state legislators

Sunday, March 3, 2013 6:57 PM
Last updated Monday, March 4, 2013 1:52 AM
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How much are Augusta's elected officials worth? Taxpayers are about to find out, as four more extend a hand for a local supplement to their state-mandated minimum salaries.

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Probate Judge Harry James wants his pay raised 15 percent, citing his heavy workload.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Probate Judge Harry James wants his pay raised 15 percent, citing his heavy workload.

Joining Richmond County's sheriff, solicitor-general, tax commissioner and others in seeking higher pay are the presiding and chief judges of civil and magistrate court, the clerk of court and new Probate Judge Harry James.

A divided Augusta Commission recently approved raises requested by Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Solicitor-General Kellie Kenner-McIntyre and has paid Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick's supplement for four years, despite never approving it. An elected official's pay can't be reduced while he or she is in office, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.

The elected officials now seeking supplements are going about it differently by asking Augusta legislators to increase their pay through legislation.

“I would surmise that our court probably is the busiest probate court in the state outside of Fulton,” said James, who is seeking a 15 percent increase, which would bring his salary to $125,932.

At a base salary of $109,506, James is already earning more than the state-required minimum of $85,000 for probate judges in counties with more than 200,000 people.

James said probate courts in counties with more than 96,000 people now have increased jurisdiction, including over criminal warrants and certain jury trials, that will increase the caseload.

By comparison, Columbia County Probate Judge Alice Padgett earns around $117,000, which includes a $4,852 supplement to handle traffic cases in the county of 128,112 residents.

Macon-Bibb County's probate judge earns around $130,000. Chatham County’s earns $148,000, the same amount as the judge in Henry County, a metro Atlanta county whose population of 207,000 is similar to Richmond County’s.

James, Chief Civil and Magistrate Judge William Jennings and Presiding Civil and Magistrate Judge Scott Allen are seeking raises from the Legislature with commission support. Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson said she referred a general request for an increase directly to the Legislature.

Allen, who earns $116,702 and Jennings, who earns $118,206, cite the higher salaries of Richmond County State Court judges, who all earn more than $140,000, and Augusta Circuit Superior Court judges, who each are paid more than $187,252 each.

By comparison, civil and magistrate judges earn $163,322 in Chatham; $132,800 in Bibb and $133,700 in Henry County.

The commission has taken no action on increasing local supplements since approving raises for Roundtree and Kenner-McIntyre, but Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said members of the legislative delegation will act on the salary requests if they receive commission support for them this week.

RICHMOND AND COLUMBIA COUNTY SALARIES

Richmond County sheriff $126,500

Columbia County sheriff $135,760

Richmond County solicitor-general $106,700

Richmond County clerk of court $117,137

Columbia County clerk of court $118,351

Richmond County probate judge $109,506

Columbia County probate judge $117,000

Richmond County Civil & Magistrate Court chief judge $118,206

Richmond County Civil & Magistrate Court presiding judge $116,702

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countyman
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countyman 03/05/13 - 01:18 am
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The 2010 population and 2011

The 2010 population and 2011 population both show Richmond County is growing. The 2011 update shows Richmond County gained more people than Aiken County.

corgimom
38515
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corgimom 03/05/13 - 07:50 am
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The salaries for officials in

The salaries for officials in RC are woefully low, and it's like everything else, you get what you pay for.

But only Countyman would think it's a marvel that a P. F. Chang (a restaurant? really?), and Sephora (cosmetics? really?), who targets low to middle income clientele, would think that's a positive thing for Augusta. It's indicative of lower than normal income, not affluence. As for Costco, they like more affluent areas, and they went into Riverwatch because it was a deal too good to pass up, to penetrate the market. RC was so desperate to get something in there that they practically shoved it at Costco, and assumed all the risk. It's not an indicator of how well RC is doing, it was an act of desperation, and like all desperate acts, will not turn out well. I predict that within 10 years, when the tax abatement ends, they will abandon that store and go to Aiken and CC, leaving another blighted empty big box store. Aiken and CC is where the money is, poor people can't afford to spend $55 for the privilege of walking into a store. Nobody drives 30 miles, with gas nearly $4 per gallon, to save $1 on toilet paper. And you need space to store all those bulk items, and poor people don't have the space necessary to store them.

The sweetheart Costco deal is just one of the many short-sighted, disasterous decisions made by the same folks that gave RC the TEE Center. It was another BOHICA moment for the RC taxpayers, one of many, and will come back to haunt RC, just like all of the other short-sighted decisions that have been made. As Dichotomy has said, if you locked all the Commissioners in a room for a day, they couldn't come up with a workable plan for a company picnic.

But perhaps Countyman could give us his ideas on why "thriving" Richmond County has a 23% poverty rate, higher than the state average, and higher than Aiken County or Columbia County. I would be interested in his theories. I don't call that thriving, I call that a county in a fiscal crisis, no county anywhere can thrive with that kind of poverty.

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