BOC wasting county resources

Published 6:20 pm Sunday, February 16, 2014

To the editor:

It wasn’t long ago that the Republicans on the Board of Commissioners (BOC) delayed a 2.5 percent pay raise for county employees for six months in order to fund a ¼-of one-cent property tax reduction. Amounting to just $2.50 of property tax per $100,000 of property value, that gesture totaled approximately $64,000 of reduced tax revenues but was touted as a means of “giving back to the taxpayers.”

Apparently it’s a whole new world now.

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This Monday Republican members of the BOC – faced with the March 10 return of county manager (CM) Ryan Whitson, who has been on military leave – will propose a new full-time position for the county: an “assistant county manager” job that will be given to current interim county manager Marche Pittman.

Pittman was given his current interim position shortly after being the only candidate on the 2012 Republican slate who did not win his election; no other interested candidates had the opportunity to apply for the interim CM job.

Since then, although he did not have experience as a county manager, Pittman has been paid a salary similar to Whitson’s, travels to County Manager School in Raleigh at Polk taxpayer expense, and was given a new SUV (whereas Whitson made do with hand-me-downs from the sheriff’s department).

The new assistant CM position being proposed will have a total compensation and benefits package of more than $96,000 annually. The actual county manager position will still exist but is being gutted so that select responsibilities can be shifted to Pittman. Those include human resources and a new “information officer” role that, among other things, means only Pittman will be allowed to speak to the media.

To put the “need” for this new position in perspective, the NC Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) says only 51 of the state’s 100 counties have full-time assistant CM positions – primarily the most populated counties. By contrast, only 16 NC counties have a smaller population than ours (per US Census 2012 estimate) and only 17 have a smaller annual budget  (per NC Department of the State Treasurer).

Why do we need a full-time assistant county manager?

A second item on Monday’s agenda is a budget revision for the BOC’s economic development consultant. When hired, he was touted as a bargain to lead the economic development process because his consulting fee was just $6,000. Monday’s proposed budget revision will have him paid an additional $3,000 per month for another five months, bringing his total to $21,000.

In the meantime, the county’s official economic development director – who is already paid by the county – has been left completely out of the new economic development process. So has the county’s agricultural economic development director – already on the county payroll.

Also left out of the process have been the county’s official Economic & Tourism Development Commission (ETDC) and Agricultural Economic Development Commission, both of which have county monies dedicated to them for economic development activities. The hard-working volunteers on those boards were all appointed and approved by the BOC. Their input has been offered but rebuffed during the BOC’s planning process.

To summarize: on Monday the BOC’s Republican majority will propose that in excess of $111,000 be spent to duplicate the work of qualified employees and appointed volunteers who are already on the job. If you’ve got an opinion on this use of county resources, please come to the BOC Meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, in the Womack Building.

– Judy Heinrich, Collinsville