GEORGETOWN — Georgetown County’s elected employee positions are going to make more money in the coming years in exchange for their service.
County Council voted for the final approval of new base salaries for full-time elected positions including the sheriff, coroner, clerk of court and treasurer. Compensation for county council members remains the same.
The new totals will pay a new sheriff $80,000 a year and the clerk of court $70,000 a year. The coroner, treasurer and auditor will all make $45,000 a year.
Positions like a county sheriff or clerk of court are full-time managerial jobs unlike council members who serve part time. These elected employees essentially act as the administrators of the various departments.
The base salaries for public employees in Georgetown County haven’t been updated in 15 years. Conversations about changing the base salary amounts have been ongoing since October of 2019, but previous attempts to increase the salaries proved unsuccessful until Tuesday’s council meeting.
An earlier draft of the ordinance proposed even steeper pay increases, but council ultimately decided against such an increase given the times.
Councilmember Louis Morant proposed the final base salary amounts through an amendment. He understood elected officials were not making competitive salaries to other counties, but his final proposal was significantly less than the other options council considered.
In the original proposal, for example, an incoming sheriff would've been paid $109,000. Given the coronavirus pandemic and budget concerns, Morant didn’t think it was fair to grant such an increase.
“The initial increase, to me, was a huge increase and there were no increase for other employees. And there are no cost of living increases this year either. So I couldn’t rationalize it to myself to agree to the huge increase when the employees aren’t getting anything,” Morant said. “We went with something that is comparable to other counties, but reasonable.”
Even with the latest salary, increases in Georgetown County are across-the-board lower than compared to Horry County officials, albeit a much larger county, according to information on the SC Association of Counties’ Wages and Salaries survey, that contains a database of statewide county employee compensation packages,
When compared to counties more similar to Georgetown County in size, the SCAC reports the new Georgetown wages are now, in fact, comparable if not more than what some similar counties smaller than Georgetown and without the local economies currently pay.
Full reports from the SCAC on public employee compensation can be found on its website.
These changes in Georgetown County will go into effect at the start of next year and will only affect newly elected officials. Incumbents who won their election will get to keep past standard-of-living and merit raises.
Currently, Georgetown will have a new auditor, treasurer and coroner in the coming year. Depending on the outcome of the 2020 election, there potentially could be a new sheriff.
Council Chairman John Thomas said increasing the pay keeps the county competitive to other governments and will hopefully help qualified candidates run for office.
“We need qualified people and to do that we need to pay a salary that is competitive for areas,” Thomas said. “You don’t want a senior position to come in and they’re hobbled by an entrance salary that was based 15 years ago before pay raises and inflation were added in.”