Top 5 compensated county Boards of Commissioners in North Carolina for 2011
1. Mecklenburg: $26,690 — $22,370 salary; $4,320 travel
2. Cumberland: $24,889 — $20,089 salary; $4,800 travel
3. Guilford: $22,500 — $21,000 salary; $1,500 travel
4. Robeson: $21,760 — $13,360 salary; $8,400 travel
5. Brunswick: $21,000 — salary only
LUMBERTON — At least one Robeson County commissioner believes he is overpaid for the work that he does for the county, and questions whether each commissioner travels enough miles during a month to warrant a $700 travel stipend — the highest in the state.
“I would have no problem if our salaries were cut,” Commissioner David Edge told The Robesonian. “I’d make a motion to do that, but I know I would never get the five votes needed to make it happen. All I would probably do is tick off some other commissioners.”
Robeson County’s commissioners were the fourth highest paid in the state during 2011 for combined salary and travel stipends, according to figures gathered by the University of North Carolina’s School of Government in Chapel Hill. The report ranks the chairman of the Robeson County board — a seat now held by Noah Woods — as the sixth highest paid chairman in North Carolina.
The commissioners this year each received a $600 salary raise over last year, and the stipend remained the same.
During 2012, the commissioners will each receive a salary of $14,227 and $700 a month for travel, a total of $22,667 for the year. Woods, as chairman, will be paid $26,829 — $18,429 in salary, and $8,400 in travel.
Those figures do not include health insurance, retirement benefits, and $150 a meeting that some commissioners earn for sitting as chairman of the Health and Department of Social Services boards.
“I don’t think you can put a price on the time we spend (on county business),” said Commissioner Roger Oxendine, who said he gets at least 25 calls each day from people needing his help. “I don’t think we are overcompensated for what we do, but I’m fine with what we are getting … .”
The three counties that paid their commissioner more during 2011 than did Robeson were Mecklenburg, $26,690, Cumberland, $24,889, and Guilford, $22,500. The total compensation for county commissioners in counties adjoining Robeson are: Bladen, $11,609; Columbus,$14,861; Hoke, $7,063 plus $100 a meeting; and Scotland, $6,276.
Robeson County’s $700 a month travel stipend, which is paid as a flat fee, is the highest in the state, according to the report. It was raised in 2005 from the $600 paid during 2004.
Based on the county’s compensation rate of 45 cents a mile, a commissioner would have to travel about 52 miles every day of a 30-day month to reach the $700 mark.
Ken Windley, a former Robeson County manager, said paying the stipend as a flat fee is pretty standard.
“The commissioners have their own lives and businesses, and it can get to be a hassle trying to keep up seven days a week with whether the vehicle is being used for personal or county business,” Windley said. “Probably what they are getting is adequate. I’m not going to argue that they get too much. I know what these guys do.”
County Manager Ricky Harris said that the commissioners usually get a small increase in salary when other county employees are granted an increase in their wages. Harris provided records showing that commissioners received $22.25 a month more in 2011 than they did in 2010. From 2011 to 2012, the salary for commissioners jumped $50 a month.
All of the commissioners who spoke with The Robesonian about their travel stipend and salaries — Oxendine, Edge, Woods, Raymond Cummings, Lance Herndon, Roger Oxendine and Tom Taylor — pointed out that the county is the largest in the state and said they travel long distances to attend meetings and other events. They said they respond almost daily to concerns of constituents.
Commissioners Jerry Stephens and Hubert Sealey did not return repeated phone calls from a reporter.
Woods believes he is “providing reasonable services at a reasonable price.”
“I never look at the price I’m getting,” he said. “I’m providing services to the people. We are on call 24/ 7 and when the people want us some place, we better be there.”
Herndon also pointed to the size of the county.
“I definitely travel a great deal,” said Herndon, a resident of of Parkton. “But I don’t want to see it increased. We need to be good stewards of our resources.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com