LUMBERTON — Roger Oxendine says he and fellow county commissioners will discuss their pay, benefits and discretionary funds Monday, a conversation that is expected to include a decision on whether any cuts should be made.
“It’s coming,” Oxendine said. “It will be Monday.”
One commissioner, Lance Herndon, said he would be “surprised” if some changes were not made.
The Robesonian tried to reach all eight county commissioners last week, with mixed success, and Oxendine was the only one who would say that the pay, benefits and discretionary money would be discussed during a workshop Monday on the budget for the next fiscal year. The workshop will follow the commissioners’ regular meeting.
Other commissioners said there would be a discussion, but when it happens is up to Chairman Noah Woods. Woods has promised a public discussion on the issue during budget talks, and Monday could end work on the budget.
Commissioners Raymond Cummings and Jerry Stephens did not return a reporter’s call, and The Robesonian was unable to leave a message for David Edge, who is out of the county on business. In addition to Herndon and Oxendine, Commissioners Hubert Sealey and Tom Taylor were interviewed for this story.
County Manager Ricky Harris’ proposed $145.5 million budget calls for no property-tax increase, includes a 2 percent pay increase for county employees and raises the cost of water and some ambulance services.
Under Harris’ plan, all special appropriations, except for the Lumberton Municipal Airport, Robeson Community College, COMtech and the Robeson County Public Library, would remain the same as in the current fiscal year. Harris said COMtech would receive an additional $40,000, the library an additional $50,000 and RCC an additional $100,000.
According to Harris, $92,000 is being set aside as matches to two grants that the airport is seeking. The money will not be spent if the airport does not receive the grants.
The budget also calls for giving the schools $12.375 million for current expenses and $4.7 million for capital outlay. According to Harris, the figures are about the same as the county allocated for the schools in the current budget.
Taylor, who was chairman of the first budget work session on May 23 in Woods’ absence, told The Robesonian after the meeting that the commissioners are likely to discuss and possibly do something related to their pay and benefits when the board holds its final budget work session. But Taylor was vague when questioned Thursday.
“I don’t know what Monday will bring,” he said.
Herndon said he was optimistic that the commissioners would take a look at their pay, benefits and discretionary funds.
“I feel there will be some tweaking,” Herndon said. “I’d be surprised if there is not.”
Last week Woods said “if” there was any discussion and action on pay, benefits and discretionary funds, it would be public.
“We will deal with it,” he said, but did not commit to a time frame.
The Robesonian last year began looking at the commissioners’ pay and benefits, and found that Robeson County commissioners are perhaps the best-compensated in North Carolina. The newspaper could not find another county government with a discretionary fund.
The commissioners instructed Harris and his staff to conduct a study, which Harris has said did not find significant differences with what The Robesonian has reported. But the commissioners have not acted on the study, the results of which they received at the end of November.
More recently, the commissioners informally asked COMtech founder Tony Normand to make recommendations about their pay, benefits and discretionary funds. According to Harris, Normand did not submit a written report to the commissioners, but spoke to them about his recommendations.
During Monday’s regular meeting, the commissioners will:
— Hold a public hearing on a request by the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina for a conditional-use permit for the establishment of a community center in Smiths.
— Hold a public hearing on Christina Oxendine’s request for a conditional-use permit to establish a beauty salon in Shannon.
— Hold a public hearing on Rural Chavis’ request for a conditional-use permit for the establishment of a mobile home park in Rennert.
— Hear a report on the county Housing Authority from Commissioner Cummings, chairman of the Housing Authority’s steering committee.
— Consider a resolution requesting that the Division of Highways add Old Maxton Red Spring Road to its list of safety projects for Robeson County. A bridge on the road needs signs prohibiting diving or jumping from it.
— Consider an agreement for economic incentives for Sentinel Fence.
— Approve the advertisement of county surplus property.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the county administration building on North Elm Street. It and the budget workshop that follows are open to the public.