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Pay raises in sight for Columbia County employees

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 7:30 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Pay raises are now a reality for Columbia County employees. Commission just voted in favor of raising the county’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’ll take effect in just two weeks on July 1. And every county employee who already makes more than $15 an hour can expect a raise, too.

Every single employee in Columbia County is set to receive a pay raise in just a few weeks. So every person that works in the government complex over by Evans Town Center. The county said this is a gamechanger for the future of Columbia County.

Of the 1,300 Columbia County employees first responders are one of the groups getting a pay raise. Columbia County Fire Chief Jeremy Wallen says this is a gamechanger for his staff.

“They’ve all been telling me this is really going to affect the number of applicants that are quality that we’re going to get,” said Jeremy Wallen, Columbia County Fire Chief.

Right now Chief Wallen says the department has six open spots which is higher than normal. He’s seen employees leave for markets with higher pay.

“So I have had some turnover due to the fact that those were rates that we couldn’t compete with,” he said.

Now he says this new wage increase will only help bring in a bigger pool of applicants and help keep his trucks staffed.

“Having a competitive rate that allows us to capture the best potential firefighter medics that we can get as well as retain them through a strenuous training program and then get them out to work so they can be a part of protecting the community,” he said.

County Administrator Scott Johnson says for people who live in Columbia County this will have no effect on you.

“We are not putting this on the backs of the taxpayers. What I mean by this is we are looking at the possibility of lowering the tax rates in addition to raising these salaries,” he said.

He says lower-salaried employees will get more money. But even higher paid-employees will get a raise though not as much as those making less.

“We found out we really needed to raise, especially the lower salaries, to be competitive,” he said.

Remaining competitive and retaining employees is always their number one goal. The fire department says their call volume is only going to go up as Columbia County keeps growing. They say this new wage increase is big with future staffing. Again the wage increase will begin on July 1.

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