Abbeville council not wise to give itself a pay hike
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 12:00 AM
While the state Senate might have been ill-advised to give itself an increase in its indistrict expense funding to the tune of an additional $1,000 a month, Abbeville County Council was beyond ill-advised in voting a $1,000 annual salary increase Monday night.
Now don’t get us wrong. We fully understand and appreciate serving in many elected offices around here does not pay well. Granted, serving in an elected office should not be a career and sole source of one’s income, but the salary should be adequate to help defer the costs of one’s service. However, as the saying goes, timing is everything. In this case, the timing is not good.
Abbeville County has had its share of budgetary woes, to include having had difficulties making payroll in the recent past. While the county is not operating in the red, and while $1,000 spread tacked onto seven people’s salary is not a bank-breaking amount, right now is not a wise time for council to be rewarding itself.
Currently, council salaries stand at $8,400 for the chairman, $7,400 for the vice chairman and $6,800 for regular members. Again, a pittance for the service given, but a pittance they were aware of when they ran for the office. We’ll concede a $1,000 pay bump is arguably deserved while again cautioning the timing might not be best.
In casting the lone dissenting vote Monday, after his motion to eliminate council’s health benefits along with the pay bump failed, councilman Charlie Stone said, “How are we going to tell somebody working 29-and-a-half hours at one of the convenience centers that they don’t get health insurance but we do?” So much political posturing on Stone’s part? Perhaps, but wisely stated and likely to get some attention.
It is obvious council needs to embark on a more comprehensive look at the benefits and pay it offers throughout the county, and not just for itself. And while council has given increases to county employees, Monday’s vote will not set well with a good many of Abbeville County’s residents. It just does not look right when some employees, such as those who work at the county recycling/dump stations mentioned by Stone, cannot receive health benefits while council does. It does not look right because it plainly is not right.
County employees are precisely that -- employees. Their county jobs are their livelihoods. They depend on those jobs to put food on the table, clothe their families and yes, if offered as a benefit of the job, provide health coverage. People elected to serve on council are often already employed and have an opportunity to receive health benefits. But even if they do not have those benefits, as a result of being retired or for some other reason, serving on council is not supposed to be for their benefit so much as it is to benefit the people they serve, their constituency. And that constituency includes the very people they employ in service to the county.
To add the proverbial insult to injury, council’s increase in pay amounts to a 14 percent hike while the 1.5 percent pay hike it gave employees was significantly offset -- at least for those who do receive health benefits -- by the fact that council’s approved budget also saddles employees with a 3.1 percent increase in their contributions toward their health coverage.
Council gave itself a small pay raise, but in doing so it also gave a thumb of the nose to county employees and, frankly, taxpayers.