City salaries: Augusta similar to Columbus but has fewer workers

Merged police with sheriff's office in mid 1990s

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 1, 2014 

The Columbus Consolidated Government employs about 2,980 people, full and part time, with a total city payroll of about $106.2 million, according to records obtained from the city's human resources department.

Augusta is the Georgia city that most closely resembles Columbus. Its population is only about 540 fewer than Columbus' and it, too, has a consolidated city-county form of government.

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The biggest difference between the two cities is that the Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated Government employs 2,720, or 260 fewer people than Columbus, according to Tanika Bryant, Augusta's human resources director. Its payroll is $101.75 million.

Dividing the total Columbus payroll by the number of employees shows an average salary of $35,600, compared to $37,408 in Augusta.

If the Consolidated Government were to decrease its employee base to match Augusta's, losing 260 workers at an average of $35,600, it could save the city about $9.25 million -- which would take care of the deficit city leaders have said the city will face this fiscal year.

The problem with that scenario, said Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, is that the difference in the number of city employees can be traced in large part to law enforcement.

Augusta merged its police department into the Richmond County Sheriff's Office during consolidation in the mid 1990s, so it has only a sheriff's office and a marshal's office, she said.

Columbus/Muscogee County opted not to merge law enforcement when they consolidated in 1971, so it retains all three agencies.

Richmond County's sheriff's office has 750 employees and the marshal has 100, she said. Columbus' police department has 549 employees, the sheriff has 467 and the marshal 42, for a total of 1,058, which is 208 more law enforcement personnel than Augusta.

"For the level of service our citizens expect, we're providing it with very near the minimal number of employees that it takes to provide that level of service," Tomlinson said. "If you're asking if we could do with fewer employees, well, I guess we could. But there would be a definite impact on services provided. It would not be like the services today. I would not recommend it."

The CCG's human resources department recently released to the Ledger-Enquirer a list of all city employees, their positions and their annual salaries. The Ledger-Enquirer has used the list to update its online city salary database. You can access the database at ledger-enquirer.com/citysalaries/.

Using the list, we compiled the following observations about the CCG employee base:

Columbus has 17 employees who make more than $100,000 a year, 70 employees who make more than $75,000, 366 who make more than $50,000 and 893 who make more than $40,000.

At $78,909 a year, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson ranks 46th on that list, which is topped by State Court Judges Andrew Prather and Ben Richardson, who each make $154,113, records show.

The top 10 wage earners in the CCG are:

State Court Judge Andrew Prather, $154,113

State Court Judge Ben Richardson, $154,113

City Manager Isaiah Hugley, $140,019

Airport Director Richard Howell, $124,999

Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce, $121,902

State Court Solicitor Suzanne Goddard, $116,069

City Attorney Clifton Fay, $112,117

Deputy City Manager David Arrington, $112,117

Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, $112,117

Convention and Trade Center Executive Director David Bevans, $109,140

Among city department heads, Engineering Director Donna Newman tops that category at $96,678, followed by:

Finance Director Pam Hodge, $92,020

Director of Golf John Milam, $92,020

Public Services Director Pat Biegler, $89,775

Civic Center Director Ross Horner, $89,775

Parks and Rec Director James Worsley, $89,775

Information Technology Director Charles Tate, $87,577

Muscogee County Prison Warden Dwight Hamrick, $86,072

Human Resources Director Reather Hollowell, $85,449

Planning Director Rick Jones, $83,365

Other department heads make less than $75,000, according to city records.

Superior Court judges make about $147,000, but are not included on the Top 10 list because about $120,000 of that is paid by the state, not local taxpayers. Similarly, District Attorney Julia Slater's salary of about $132,000 includes more than $114,000 from the state.

Among Public Safety employees, Police Chief Ricky Boren makes $104,694, Fire Chief Jeff Meyer makes $102,297, Sheriff John Darr makes $101,296 and Marshal Greg Countryman makes $78,001.

737 city employees (about 25 percent) make more than the city's median family income of $41,443; 2,532 (about 85 percent) make more than the city's per capita income of $22,761, according to city and Census records.

The list includes 25 people still listed as employees, but with a salary of $0. Among those is Deputy Marshal Alicia Davenport, who is on unpaid administrative leave following an altercation with a Columbus police officer.

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