The Cobb County Board of Commissioners passed the proposed millage rate on a 4-1 vote, with District 1 Commissioner Keli Gambrill in opposition, and the approximately $1.2 billion budget on a 3-2 vote along party lines with Gambrill and District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, the two Republicans on the BOC, in opposition.
The county’s millage rate remains the same as last year, but because the tax digest increased due to home value reassessments, the millage rate is considered a tax increase under state law.
The commissioners also adopted a $22 million compensation and classification study, which according to a county news release was “designed to increase county employees’ pay to more competitive levels.”
The adoption raises the minimum wage for county workers to $17 per hour.
In voting against the millage rate increase, Gambrill cited the rise in the county’s contingency fund, which she said increased the size of government. The contingency fund is set up to provide money for emergency expenses not included in the budget.
The other Republican on the commission, District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell cited her concerns about the state of the fire fund as her primary reason for voting in favor of the millage rate proposal.
BOC Chairwoman Lisa Cupid made the motions to pass the millage rate and the budget.
“This is not a panacea, but tonight will help us get there,” Cupid said. “This board is doing the best it can do to be good stewards of your county tax dollars and the services that you expect us to provide. Cobb County is one of the best counties in the state, if not the nation, but we can’t continue to maintain it as such under these conditions. Rolling (the millage) back would only make this county more compromised than the county you expect us to be.”
County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris emphasized the difficulties faced by some county employees.
“It burdens me to have to listen to someone say they don’t have the money to replace a refrigerator that’s not working or to replace tires on their car, or they don’t have the luxury of some of the things many of us take for granted,” Dr. McMorris said. “But yet they show up every single day to do the work of this county. I don’t know how we can sleep at night and wonder how some of our employees who have been here this long deserve this.”