Cobb County may use federal money for public safety

Cobb County received $147 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. County leaders are considering using $20 million of that to help fill public safety job openings.

"Across our public service agencies, police, sheriff, fire, 911 we have 260 vacancies," said Ross Cavitt, a spokesperson with Cobb County.

The Cobb County Police Department has 83 vacancies of their 634 authorized positions.

The Cobb County Fire Department has 81 vacancies of their 752 authorized positions. 

The Cobb County Department of Public Safety E911 Emergency Communications Center has 36 vacancies of their 150 authorized positions. 

The Cobb County Sheriff's Office has 60 vacancies of their 538 authorized positions.

County leaders are considering using federal money to help fill the job openings.

"Beefing up some of the public safety salaries, pay retention bonuses and giving public safety tools to go out and recruit more people," said Cavitt.

When it comes to pay, the plan would be to increase entry level pay from $46,000 to $50,000 for police, fire and sheriff's deputies, and from $41,500 to $43,000 for E911 dispatchers.

Even though Cobb County just recently increased pay for public safety to recruit and retain employees, other cities and counties have done the same. It is a competitive market.

"We're finding ourselves competing for a smaller pool of candidates while prices for those candidates are going up," said Cavitt.

The big challenge, the federal money must be used in two years. So, the question is whether the county can afford to continue to pay top dollar from the county's general fund.

"That's going to be the big debate for the commissioners whether we can absorb that increase in the years to come," said Cavitt.

The Cobb County Commission will discuss this at their meeting this week.

They will be discussing what to do with the rest of the ARPA money over the next several months. The county received hundreds of applications from various agencies over the next several months.