06/22/10 — No new taxes for Duplin, but no raises for workers either

View Archive

No new taxes for Duplin, but no raises for workers either

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 22, 2010 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners approved the county's 2010-11 budget Monday -- without a proposed 2 percent raise for full and part-time county employees.

The budget initially contained the across-the-board increase, but a motion made by Commissioner Frances Parks to remove the item passed 4-2, with commissioners Reginald Wells and Zettie Williams dissenting.

Ms. Parks said she supports all county employees and cited economic conditions and a need to be fair in awarding raises through merit as her reasons for making the motion.

"I believe, I know there are many, many employees in our county that are underpaid," she said.

But the county budget is growing larger while drawing heavily from the fund balance, and "we must do all we can to stop this trend," Ms. Parks said.

When asked by Commis-sioner David Fussell, County Manager Mike Aldridge responded that a 2 percent salary increase alone would not eliminate what he sees as a problem in attracting and retaining key employees within the county.

The commissioners later voted to pursue developing a merit-based policy that would award raises based on employee performance. Creating the right instrument for measuring employee performance is the key, even though it will take time, Ms. Parks said.

Aldridge advised caution in going to a merit pay system. The county had such a system more than a decade ago and did away with it due to complaints, he said.

"It was a disaster," he said.

Commissioner Harold Raynor also voiced concerns about implementing a merit-based raise system. While it might work well in private industry, that might not be the case for government entities, he said.

Fussell made a motion to reserve $250,000 in the budget for merit pay once the system is developed, but the motion did not pass a vote.

The approved budget did not include funding for a deputy at the Sheriff's Office substation in Calypso. Sheriff Blake Wallace previously stated that the county's anti-gang officers will be moving to the substation and that the area will still have police protection.

The $47,763,315 budget did not raise property taxes from the current 69-cent tax rate. The largest chunk of the budget, $15.5 million or 32.59 percent, will go toward paying for human services expenses. Another $12.7 million or 27.21 percent will go to funding public safety.

Education is the county's third largest expenditure this year, with $9,864,335 or 20.65 percent of the budget going to the county schools and James Sprunt Community College. The county school system will receive $7.7 million in current expense funding and $2.4 million in capitol outlay in local funding.

The budget did not include funding for the $4.8 million lawsuit judgment against the county. Chairman Cary Turner reported there has been no recent contact between the two boards regarding the funding.

The county made cuts of $237,769 to contribu-tions/transfers, $128,447 to non-department expenditures, $78,787 for general government, $29,550 to the hospital and $3,872 to a grant. Other items, including education, economic and physical development, public safety and human services went up. Human resources expenditures were budgeted to increase by $750,200, but that did not take into account removing the 2 percent pay increase for employees.

The county commission did include funding for the library, parks and recreation and the museum in the budget. The board members also voted to approve advertising within the current county staff to fill one full-time library worker position.