Commissioners take on 911 pay and excise tax

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News12 First at Five/ Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga (WRDW) -- Richmond County 911 dispatchers could be getting bigger paychecks after a News12 investigation.

Augusta leaders are considering raising their pay; meanwhile business leaders want commissioners to do away with a tax.

Some say a tax break for businesses means property owners could be left footing the bill. Dispatchers were shocked when News 12 uncovered a pay disparity.

We found 311 dispatchers could be making thousands more than those on the other end of an emergency call.

"I thought that we were being cheated. I thought that we were not being recognized for what we do and how long we've done it," said 911 Operator Nicole Hill.

Dispatchers start out on the low end at $22,000 and on the high end $38,000. 311 starting salaries range from $23,000 to $40,000.

"I'm not negating the work 311 reps do. We do all that plus go the extra mile," said Hill.

"I think they're both entitled to pay increases. 911 should be paid more than 311," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.

The chamber of commerce and other business advocates want leaders to think twice before imposing a two percent excise tax.

"Anytime you have any kind of an additional charge that maybe another community doesn't have, it's something that other companies look at," said Augusta Economic Development Walter Sprouse.

Augusta leaders say the proposed excise tax would replace the two percent local governments lost once the state did away with six percent of the eight percent sales tax on energy.

"It's a fundamental fairness issue. Are you going to help pay for the services that you use in our community everyday? We also have a deficit we are trying to close," said Commissioner Donnie Smith.

"Let's increase the millage rate by one mill and we can lay off the excise tax," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.

Now leaders are looking for ways to close an $8 million hole in the budget.

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