05/16/07 — County budget concerns could affect salaries

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County budget concerns could affect salaries

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 16, 2007 1:46 PM

With Wayne County Manager Lee Smith hoping to have a budget out by the end of the month, some department heads are beginning to worry about the future of their employees' salaries.

Among them is Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders, who spoke at the county Board of Commissioners meeting Monday.

"I realize you're faced with needs and demands for funding and a lot of tough decisions," he told the board. "We can't forget our employees. We don't need to become a training ground. There's got to be a point we say hold it, we've got to take care of our employees."

Winders said that his comments were meant only as a heads-up to the commissioners. So far, no salary decisions have been made.

"There have been some discussions about salaries during budget talks," he said. "There has been some speculation that there may not be any raises. We don't know what to expect.

"My whole thing to the commissioners was just, don't forget your employees. It's hard enough to attract deputies, or other employees for that matter."

His deputies' starting pay is about $28,000.

Winders also is pretty sure that he won't be getting the 18 new positions he requested.

And that, he added, is a growing problem as more demands are placed on his deputies to cover areas of the county that are satellite annexed by Goldsboro, such as the Food Lion in the Mar-Mac community and the new Wal-Mart coming to the Rosewood community.

When those places have a call, whether for shoplifting, fraud or a traffic accident, his deputies are the ones to respond -- not Goldsboro police.

"We provide that coverage at no cost to the city taxpayers," Winders said. "And we're already dealing with limited resources."

But Smith said that while he understands Winders' concerns, the tight budget this year is tying his hands.

"(Salaries) are the part I'm under debate on right now," Smith said. "I'm debating the salary issue, the benefits issue. That's up in the air right now. I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do, because we've only got so much money."

He explained that he is looking at how much other counties are offering for certain departments and examining the county's merit-based performance pay system. Smith also said that he is still meeting with department heads to figure out the best way to handle salaries this year.

He did acknowledge, though, that of the 30 requests for new positions, he has only approved four so far, and they are in areas that could bring in additional revenue or where additional manpower is sorely needed.

Already, he added, from strictly an operational standpoint -- not including the schools, Medicaid or other outside expenses -- the county's budget is likely to be smaller than last year's.

There was no discussion from the commissioners about the salary issue.

They did, however, discuss two issues related to the county's zoning ordinances.

The first was to dissolve the current county Board of Adjustment and re-appoint themselves as members.

The reason, they explained, was to create more continuity between the policy-setting board and the one granting special use permits and variances as the county moves forward on future land-use issues.

"I think the purpose of the change is to allow the people who set the policy in the county the last opportunity to make those changes," Commissioner Andy Anderson said.

The Board of Adjustment's rules will remain the same -- a simple majority to grant special use permits and variances and a four-fifths majority to overrule a decision of the zoning enforcement officer.

The commissioners' second decision was to amend the county's zoning ordinance and the county's airport overlay district ordinance to allow recreational vehicle campgrounds as special uses in residential, residential-agricultural, community shopping zones.

With the change, county attorney Borden Parker explained that such campgrounds would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of American Legion Post 11's request to put an RV campground on its property around Legion Lake on the east side of U.S. 117 South, he said they would now need to come back and ask the board of adjustment for permission.

The commissioners have indicated that they would look favorably upon the Legion's request.

And finally, the commissioners voted 5 to 2 to ask Wayne County's state Senate delegation to not support a bill that would allow voters to register and vote at one-stop sites on the same day -- at least not until photo identification is required.

Commissioner Efton Sager, who made the motion, explained that he would be open to the idea, as long as there were safeguards in place to protect against voter fraud.

Commissioners J.D. Evans and Chairman John Bell voted against the request.

"I think the intent of the bill was to involve more people in the process. Anything we can do to encourage people to become a part of the voting population, we should do it. We're not going to be able to have the perfect system. All systems that exist have some fallacies in them," Evans said.