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No raises for county employees

LAWRENCEVILLE -- For the first time in 16 years, Gwinnett County employees will not get a raise in salary.

In a budget adopted last week, officials did not include any increase to compensation for 4,800 staffers, which include police officers, firefighters, engineers, clerks and more.

Money was the reason for stopping any increases, including a step increase that had been promised to public safety personnel two years ago.

"It's a built-in, long-term expense," Human Resources Director Kenneth Poe said.

Commissioners drew criticism last summer when raises remained in place despite a budget crisis that forced millions in cuts, including the loss of more than 300 staffers through layoffs and retirement incentives.

But Poe said the merit increases were hard to stop mid-year because some employees had already received the raises.

This year will be the first since 1994 in which county employees have not received some kind of raise. Each year commissioners have earmarked money, with the lowest amount being a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Poe said the increases last year helped to bring the county closer to the metro Atlanta market for government workers, but he added that no other metro jurisdiction is giving raises in 2010.

For some employees, he added, take-home pay will decrease because of the increase in costs of benefits.

Chairman Charles Bannister did not return a phone call seeking comment.