NHC Commissioners agree to take pay cut

Reported by Casey Roman - bio|email
Posted by Heather Setzler - bio|email

NAVASSA, NC (WECT) - Over the past year, the New Hanover County government has been trying to find ways to keep the budget alive in a sinking economy.

Cuts have been made across the board. Employee pay has been hit hard this year, except maybe for one group, the commissioners themselves.

One idea to tighten the county budget was to furlough employees. That means time off without pay. Commissioners are also employees, but this budget year they didn't take a hit.

Commissioners say it's an error that's lasted for months, but it has now been fixed.

When budget cuts were made in 2008-2009, county employees were told to take five days off without pay. Commissioners took a pay cut of equal value.

This budget year, employees were hit with ten days off, but commissioners went back to full salary. That inconsistency was a topic at a meeting Monday morning.

County commissioners voted unanimously to cut their pay this year by 3.8%.  Chairman Ted Davis says the missing cut was simply an oversight.

"We did it last year," said Commissioner Davis. "I said then good leadership should lead by example. That's why I thought it was the right thing to do then. I think it's the right thing to do now, and I cannot honestly tell you why we did not sit there and say 'OK this is going to apply to the commissioners too,' because I just assumed it had."

WECT asked Commissioner Jason Thompson if additional cuts would be made to make up their months of full salary.  He said the county manager will decide how to adjust the numbers, and either way, these cuts won't make a big dent in the budget.

"If you do it between all the commissioners, it's going to be [about] three grand for the year for the county's $267-million budget, kind of small beans," said Commissioner Thompson. "But it's probably more of a symbolic thing."

Both commissioners say they're taking the cut instead of the days off because there are no set hours in office.

They also say if the economy continues to struggle, furloughs and pay reductions will likely be a part of next year's budget.

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