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Hundreds of Augusta city workers received pay increases over the past year

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Augusta department heads and elected officials, with the blessing of the city administrator, delivered about $2.67 million in pay raises to 816 city employees over the past 12 months.

The pay increases ranged from $53,917, the local salary bump enjoyed by former assistant state court solicitor Kellie Kenner-McIntyre after her election to solicitor-general, to the $500 one-time increase afforded 43 Augusta-Richmond County library staffers.

The raises – averaging $3,512 – have come in a period when the city has dipped into its reserves to balance its budget.

The man authorized to sign off on all pay increases of 15 percent or less, City Admin­istrator Fred Russell, defended them as either higher pay based on new job descriptions or the actions of elected officials whose wisdom is not his to question.

“Nobody that has worked for us has gotten more money simply to do the same thing,” Rus­sell said. “They’re based on a revision of their job descriptions.”

He cited his office’s two administrative assistants, who garnered 20 percent and 25 percent pay increases under new job descriptions.

To compile the raise information, The Augusta Chronicle analyzed salary information provided by the city human resources department in Feb­ruary 2012 and February 2013 for differences. While 36 city employees saw their pay decrease because of a demotion or shift in funding source, nearly a third of the city’s 2,400 full-time employees saw theirs go up.

Many of the increases were in departments where Rus­sell has less of a say, such as those overseen by governing boards or authorities such as Augusta Canal Authority or the Downtown De­vel­opment Authority, both of whose executive directors received raises over the year.

Similarly, Russell said he had little choice but to approve Mayor Deke Copen­ha­ver’s request to raise the salaries of his two staffers, increases of 20 percent and 25 percent.

“If Deke said he wanted to pay them more and he had that in the budget, that’s up to him,” Russell said.

In Copenhaver’s case and the rest, the increases came from within departments’ existing budgets and not from the city’s general fund, according to Russell.

Two places with some of the most raises – Augusta Regional Airport and Au­gus­ta Utilities – are departments that generate their own revenue to pay the raises, with Russell’s signature.

About 38 airport staffers got a pay raise during the year, the largest being a $13,714 increase for airport firefighter Ronald Kendrick, who was promoted to training captain. The raises, funded by revenue generated at the airport, totaled $215,646.

At the sheriff’s office, 167 employees saw their pay increase while eight were lowered. Some of the changes are the work of new Sheriff Richard Roundtree, who sparked public outcry by asking to increase his pay above the state minimum.

Most of the increases, which averaged more than $2,600, went to jailers and road patrol deputies, though a few went to Roundtree’s handpicked senior staff.

Russell said he hadn’t kept track of how many raises he’d approved over the year and probably would not have a raise report Monday, when Com­missioner Bill Lockett asked him to present one.

Lockett was skeptical about the justification for the increases.

“All those people who got those pay increases for the assumption of additional duties, not a single one to my knowledge increased their work hours,” Lockett said. “That tells me that you did not have enough work in the first place.”

In 2011, news that Russell had approved 44 pay raises without notifying the commission nearly cost him his job, despite the fact that the commission had recently authorized him to approve any raise of 15 percent or less.

Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said his department’s raises should have gone through with the set that Russell approved in 2011, which were part of a government restructuring intended to save money.

After the 2011 controversy, Wiedmeier hired a compensation analyst to review job descriptions and analyze pay, resulting in the 189 raises, totaling $783,071, that his staff received over the year.

Fire Chief Chris James justified the raises to 85 firefighters as either for those completing their mandatory probationary year or a leveling of uneven increases for the same rank doled out by former Chief Howard Willis.

“It was only because they had been promoted but not given the proper compensation,” James said.

DATABASE: Employee Raises

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/23/13 - 08:57 pm
Taxpayers . . .

. . . are hurting.

TCB22 03/23/13 - 10:21 pm
The money is already in the

The money is already in the budget? A pay increase is a recurring cost, so the budget will be hit. Besides, what kind of management system allows increases to be doled out willy-nilly without proposals and full board approval. Sounds like Fred and Deke have a severe case of tunnel vision when it comes increasing pay for their secretaries compared to the hard-working folks who deserve raises.

class1 03/24/13 - 07:04 am
Pay Raises

Yet, the teachers of Richmond County have not had a pay raise in years. In addition, they continue to get furlough days. What is wrong with this picture? The outlining counties had no furlough days!

my.voice 03/24/13 - 07:47 am
Pay for teachers is set by

Pay for teachers is set by the state but its a valid point in an indirect sort of way. Personally, I haven't had a raise since 2006, so to see any government agency giving out raises only reinforces my feelings regarding what's wrong with our government in general. Richmond County is giving out raises like candy and Columbia County is denying business licenses for existing small businesses because the building doesn't look right. And our federal "leaders" are pinching local jobs and the like in a political move, while sending hundreds of millions to foreign countries for "aid" to countries that would like to see us smoldering in the ashes of destruction.

This town needs an enema! (The Joker, Batman movie #1)

CobaltGeorge 03/24/13 - 08:18 am
There Is

an old saying....."It's Not Who You Know, But Who You (insert)!"

allhans 03/24/13 - 11:58 am
Is there nothing the

Is there nothing the taxpayers can do about this? Do we just sit back on our fist..and say go ahead...

ParentEducator 03/24/13 - 02:24 pm
Teachers still are enduring a pay cut!

This is outrageous to me! While my.voice pointed out that the state sets the wages it (the state) also allowed local districts, which ours is Richmond County, to insert furlough days. This amounts to a pay cut of about 5% for each teacher in the county. So our pay has not only not seen a raise in over 4 years but we've also endured a cut and the cut is specifically from the budget at the county level. I don't feel that any county employees (or joint county/state employees) should be getting a raise until they replace the pay cut the teachers have received. We've sat quietly, understanding the economic situation for the last several years. Meanwhile all the surrounding counties have removed the furlough days from their budgets. Please support the extremely hard working teachers of this county.

bubbasauce 03/24/13 - 05:19 pm
Good ole government jobs. I

Good ole government jobs. I got to get me one of them. Just cry and whine a little bit and they give you a raise. What a joke the leaders of Richmond Co.are! I can guarantee you if it were their own money they would not hand it out so freely.
Just like the politicians in D.C., it sure is easy to spend taxpayers money.

proud2bamerican 03/24/13 - 06:04 pm
outrageous indeed

Outrageous is putting it mildly with such exorbitant pay increases. Meanwhile the children of RC are so FAR behind in their education due to over populated classrooms, over worked teachers, and the sad affair of no curriculum. Our public safety officers are at a higher level of risk due to lack of manpower and other necessities, not to mention a lessened ability to fight crime. Speaking of crime, it should be a 'crime' for them to get away with this irresponsible spending; any other 'manager' or business person would be FIRED for such decisions!

scoopdedoop64 03/24/13 - 11:33 pm
Who Cares

It's just money; nothing really important! just kidding. Listen, teachers should be paid what their worth and they are the last that should have had to take cuts or furlough days while others get raises. I don't blame them for being angry about that. But don't think spending more money on education is going to improve scores or help more children learn. The problem with kids learning goes back to the parents who don't teach their kids at home manners, discipline, respect for authority, and don't help work with their kids on their studies nor do they partner with the teachers at school to make sure little Johnny or Suzie learn the basics of an education. Teachers can't even discipline a kid without mom and Dad coming to defend them or being told they have to make sure they follow all these procedures so the kids don't have poor self esteem. So I don't blame teachers for wanting their fair share but more money isn't the answer to that problem.

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