DeKalb County’s Superior Court judges want a raise.
Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams asked the county’s legislative delegation to the Georgia General Assembly on Feb. 4 to increase judges’ salaries by $15,000, which would make them the second highest paid judges in the state, behind those in the Augusta circuit.
The state’s legislature has to approve the salary increases for judges.
According to Adams, all Superior Court judges in Georgia currently receive a base pay of $120,000 from the state. Counties and municipalities are free to supplement that amount to increase the judges’ total salary.
“What we’re asking for is an adjustment in the county supplement,” Adams said. “It is a salary adjustment so that we can match what is paid in Augusta.”
In the Stone Mountain circuit, which includes DeKalb County judges, the county supplement is currently $49,711, bringing a judges salary in DeKalb to $169,711. With the proposed increase, their salaries would be $184,711. In Augusta, judges currently earn $185,100.
Adams said judges’ salaries have not increased since 2008 “as far as the county supplement,” but during that time there has been a decrease in court budget, a 23 percent increase in the caseload (nearly 25,000 cases were filed in 2012), and a “slight” decrease in the number of court employees.
The caseload per judge is 2,751 in DeKalb while judges in the Augusta circuit have a caseload of 1,662 but are paid $15,389 more.
“I’m not asking for any additional personnel,” Adams said. “That’s not what I’m asking for. I am not asking for an additional judgeship. All I am asking for is a minor adjustment in the salary that is paid to the Superior Court judges.”
Adams said it would cost approximately $1 million to add another judge to the circuit because with a judge would come two assistant district attorneys, two public defenders, furniture and computers.
“If you look at it that way, I’m saving money by doing it this way,” Adams said.
Adams said the proposed salary increase would become effective January 2014.
Rep. Rahn Mayo (D-84) told Adams, “I certainly think you guys do a commendable job. I know the caseload is very heavy. My concern is with the county budget.”
“All I can do is make the request through the delegation,” Adams said. “I can’t stand in front of you and tell you where the money will come from.”
The county adjustment is paid from the county’s budget and the impact for DeKalb’s budget would be approximately $538,000 per year, Adams said.
Of that amount, $150,000 would be divided among the circuit’s 10 judges, while the other $338,000 would be divided among members of the so-called “train” of other employees who automatically get an increase when the judges do, in accordance with state law.
The are 49 individuals on the “train,” including seven state court judges, juvenile court judges, probate judges, the district attorney, solicitor general and chief magistrate.
Rep. Mike Jacobs (D-80) said, “There should be some parity among the four counties in metro Atlanta.”
Salary supplements for other metro areas include $41,932 for Atlanta, $48,211 for Gwinnett County and $58,711 for Cobb County.