LUMBERTON — The county manager said last week that he expects to present the results of a study of the pay and perks received by the Robeson County commissioners and other commissioners across the state to the local board at its Nov. 19 meeting.
“It will probably be the second meeting in November — that’s the goal I’m working for,” Ricky Harris said last week.
The results of the study will come after the Nov. 6 general election, which features only one competitive race for the board, between incumbent Commissioner Tom Taylor, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Dennis Harrell in District 7. Taylor did not wish to be interviewed for this story, but he has indicated previously that he believes some changes need to be made to the commissioners’ pay and benefits.
Harris did not give details about the study’s progress, saying only that he was “working at it” with the assistance of Tammy Freeman, the board’s clerk.
“I’m taking the counties that are surrounding us, including Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland and Bladen, and I’m still trying to find local information and see how it compares,” he said.
The Robesonian recently did a series of stories on the pay and benefits, finding that the commissioners rank fourth in the state when combining salaries and travel stipends, their travel stipend of $700 a month is the highest in the state, they and their families can receive free health insurance and they have a retirement plan that includes a county match. The commissioners on Oct. 1 voted to end a deferred compensation plan.
Harris is also looking at the board’s discretionary funds. Each commissioner receives $40,000 a year to distribute without a vote of the board, and unspent money can carry over to the next fiscal year. The Robesonian was unable to find another county board of commissioners with discretionary funding. Lumberton City Council provides each member $4,000 a year in discretionary funding, but the money must be distributed through a vote of the council.