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Cobb’s Board votes to use ARPA funds to attack public safety vacancies

Four Cobb County Firefighters in Training
November 15, 2022

UPDATE November 18 - The Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve this use of ARPA funding.
Cobb’s Board to consider using ARPA funds to attack public safety vacancies
Funds would raise pay, boost incentives, and launch recruitment efforts

November 15, 2022 - With more than 250 vacancies across its public safety agencies, Cobb County’s Board of Commissioners will consider using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to attract qualified employees and retain the ones they have.

The plan would use more than $20 million of Cobb’s ARPA allocation to adjust salaries, implement recruitment and retention incentives, and raise the entry-level pay for the police and fire departments, E911, and the Sheriff’s Office.  The entry-level pay would increase from $46,000 to just over $50,000 for police, fire, and deputies.  The entry-level pay for E911 dispatchers would go from $41,500 to just over $43,000.

“Although the Board of Commissioners has supported our efforts to boost pay and attract quality candidates in the past year, it remains a difficult environment to find people who want to take on these challenging jobs,” said Cobb County Public Safety Director Randy Crider.  “We compete with public safety agencies nationwide for a smaller pool of candidates.” 

The agenda item also includes funding to help departments recruit employees both locally and out of state more aggressively.  The program will start in early 2023.

Public safety agencies nationwide have found it challenging to fill their ranks since the pandemic.  Cobb County reports the current vacancies as follows:

  • Cobb Police (Current authorized positions = 634) 83 vacancies
  • Cobb Fire (Current authorized positions = 752)  81 vacancies
  • Cobb E911 (Current authorized positions = 150) 36 vacancies
  • Sheriff's Office (Current authorized sworn positions = 538) 60 vacancies

Cobb’s Public Safety Director says the funding will help them enhance their “lateral entry” program, which provides incentives for already experienced candidates to come to Cobb from other agencies.  It will also boost incentives for new employees.

“Cobb needs to have a plan that not only attracts quality candidates from other jurisdictions but shows those we already have that we value their commitment to those who live, work, or visit Cobb County,” Crider said.  He said this funding would be in addition to continued work to address compression within the new “Step & Grade” pay structure.

Cobb County received more than $147 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government.  The economic relief package delivers aid to American states, counties, and cities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts “on the economy, public health, State and local governments, individuals, and businesses.” 

The county continues to evaluate proposals on how to use these funds.  Earlier this year, the Board of Commissioners approved ARPA investment guidance that divides federal funds into five priority areas:

  • Community Health – To enhance mental, physical, and behavioral healthcare services.
  • Support Services – To enhance programming and services for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community.
  • Economic Development – To aid economic recovery through the business sector and workforce opportunities.
  • County Infrastructure – To enhance its physical and/or structural capacity to meet operational responsibilities.
  • Public Safety – To assist in keeping Cobb County residents safe.

The board will be approving more ARPA projects in the coming months.