Originally created 12/18/97

Handy paid enough

Mayor Pro Tem Freddie Handy wants our local legislative delegation to make some changes in the Augusta-Richmond County consolidation bill next month -- specifically, to strengthen his post.

He says it doesn't pay him enough or give him enough to do. With the mayor and city administrator already receiving full-time salaries, what's left for an assistant mayor to do anyway? Not much more than he already does, as far as we can tell.

Under the circumstance, most taxpayers figure the mayor pro tem's $20,000 a year salary is plenty -- and boosting it to $35,000 or $40,000, as Handy wants, would be an unconscionable waste, particularly at a time when the city is looking to make substantial spending cuts to bail the budget out of deficit.

If Handy doesn't agree, he doesn't have to seek the post again. Other commissioners will fill it, without whining about wage compensation.

Handy also says commissioners' pay should be boosted from $12,000 to $20,000, to make it comparable with what Atlanta City Council members and Fulton County commissioners receive, $22,500 and $27,000 respectively.

Augusta is the state's second largest city, says Handy, and "I don't think (they) should be getting more than we're getting because ...we just have one government. By combining everything, we're doing all that work."

Admirers of Atlanta's government should take note how badly it has botched the job. The capital city is paying millions in fines for polluting its air and water, threatening the health and environment of surrounding communities.

Many even want a state takeover of Atlanta's government, modeled on federal control over the wretched District of Columbia government.

The problem isn't, as Handy says, that Augusta commissioners are getting paid too little; it's that the Atlanta Council is being paid too much.

The proper place to look for a comparison of pay rates is the consolidated Columbus-Muscogee County government, the state's third largest metro community. Taxpayers there pay their part-time Council members $8,400 a year -- $3,600 less than Augusta pays its part-time commissioners!

A few reforms are needed in our merger law -- giving veto power to the mayor, for instance -- but hiking commissioners' salaries isn't one of them.


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