LUMBERTON — It doesn’t pay to be a commissioner in Red Springs.
Well, not much.
The Robesonian found during a survey of local municipal boards and the county Board of Education that no one in Robeson County performs public service for less compensation than do the Red Springs commissioners, who receive $10 per meeting.
“If you want to serve on the board in Red Springs, you do it because you want to serve the community,” said Mayor John McNeill, who over the past 38 years has served as both a commissioner and mayor. “I’ve always opposed any increase in pay … . Nobody makes money. I think that the way we do things in Red Springs is fine, and I hope it continues this way.”
In Red Springs, the mayor makes a flat $100-a-month salary. The commissioners receive a $50 yearly stipend for gasoline that is meant to reimburse the travel costs for getting to and from meetings. The mayor does not get the gasoline stipend.
If Red Springs officials go to out-of-town conferences, they receive a “travel per diem” that includes up to $37.50 per day in-state and $50.50 out-of-state. Overnight travel to conduct town business is paid by the town.
A survey conducted by The Robesonian found salaries received by municipal council members range from $10 per meeting in Red Springs to a $7,403.14 annual salary for a Lumberton council member. Mayors in all municipalities receive slightly higher salaries than council members.
The survey also found that no municipality provides its elected officials a monthly stipend for travel; Pembroke and Lumberton provide paid medical, dental and vision coverage; no municipality provides a retirement plan; and only Lumberton offers a discretionary fund.
A survey conducted last year by The Robesonian found that Robeson County commissioners receive compensation and benefits greater than those received by commissioners in surrounding counties. When their $700 stipend, the highest in the state, is added to their salaries, $14,227 per commissioner and $18,429 for Chairman Noah Woods, Robeson commissioners are the fourth highest paid in North Carolina; health insurance is provided for both the commissioners and family members, a perk not offered to county employees; commissioners have a 457 retirement plan in which the county matches 4 percent of their salaries; and each commissioner has a $40,000 discretionary fund that he can spend without the approval of the rest of the board.
In October, the board voted to do away with a deferred compensation plan that allowed a commissioner to draw a portion of his salary after he left office.
The Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education, another elected board consisting of representatives from all parts of the county, provides a per diem ranging from $470.56 to $486.51 per month to each board member, and a $250 travel allowance each month.
The vice chairman receives an additional $50 each month, with the chairman receiving an additional $100.
Board members normally only turn in an expense receipt for reimbursement for a workshop. They are reimbursed in the same manner as any school district employee.
Lumberton City Council members are paid $7,403.13 per year, with the mayor making an annual salary of $8,899.90. The city pays for certain trips and if applicable, such as at conferences, meals are permitted up to $40 per day. When eligible for travel and meal payments, council members must submit receipts for payment.
Council members receive the same medical, dental and vision benefits as city employees, but family members are not eligible to receive the benefits. Those council members and mayors who serve from 12 to 19 years are eligible to receive 50 percent of the cost of their medical insurance paid by the city after they leave office. After 20 years, they can get 100 percent of their medical insurance paid for by the city.
Each Lumberton council member also has a discretionary fund of $4,000 a year that he can use to support pet projects. The use of discretionary funds, however, must be approved by the full council during an open session.
The salaries and benefits for other Robeson County municipalities include:
n Fairmont: The mayor receives $2,100 a year and council members $1,500; there are no stipends, and travel and food reimbursements are seldom provided because officials rarely travel; officials traditionally pay their own travel and food expenses.
n Maxton: The mayor receives $7,200 a year and board members $3,600 a year; mileage is reimbursed for some business out of town; under certain circumstances, out-of-the-area meal expenses can be reimbursed up to $7.50 for breakfast, $9 for lunch and $15.50 for dinner.
n Pembroke: The mayor receives $3,000 a year and council members $2,100; up to $100 a day can be provided for out-of-town expenses; council members and the mayor receive the same medical, dental and vision benefits as town employees.
n Rowland: The mayor receives $2,400 annually, mayor pro-tem $1,800 and council members $1,500; the town pays expenses for official functions; there are no stipends; travel is reimbursed by receipt only when a private vehicle is used on business out of the area or for conferences or workshops out of the area.
n St. Pauls: The mayor receives $114.40 per meeting with a cap of 26 meetings per year, and council members receive $73.78 per meeting with the same cap; the town pays for overnight stays, and there is no compensation for in-county travel.