|Most offcials shy from taking raise|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Wednesday, 21 September 2011 14:15|
Elected county officials could get a salary bump next month due to the county’s population growth in 2010, but only one official contacted by The Press this week, County Commissioner Michael Crews, plans to take the money.
The extra pay would bring his annual salary to $29,813.
The extra $373 a year, in Mr. Crews’ view, would be better spent in his hands than if it were to remain in county coffers.
“I intend to keep it,” said the often outspoken first term commissioner. “I spend a lot of my money on gas and going to different things as a commissioner. The $150 we do get [for transportation] is really an insufficient amount ... And I give a lot of money. People call and ask for help, financial help, whether it’s making a car payment or buying groceries or helping with the light bill. I do that. I plan on continuing to do that. It’s a little bit of money, and it’s still ultimately going back. No, not every dime of my salary goes to helping people, but you’d be surprised how many people come to you for help. And then there’s re-election in 2012. Those are expensive.”
The commissioner said he intends to seek re-election and his last run in 2008 cost more than $7000.
“And to be quite honest, as a commissioner, I think I deserve it. I work hard for my constituents. I would not have voted for a salary increase if it was within my authority,” he said. “I would never do that.”
But this raise is coming from Tallahassee in accordance with state statutes that adjust the salaries of county commissioners, school board members and constitutional officers based largely on changes in population.
Baker County’s population grew to more than 27,000 residents last year, which boosted salaries by as much as $392 in most cases.
But thanks to legislation passed this year, elected officials can now turn the money down.
As of October 1, School Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson, Sheriff Joey Dobson, Clerk of Courts Al Fraser, Tax Collector Gene Harvey and Property Appraiser Tim Sweat will be eligible for an additional $392 in compensation, according to figures recently released by the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
The office reported that Supervisor of Elections Nita Crawford and county commissioners Jimmy Anderson, Mark Hartley, Adam Giddens, Michael Crews and Gordon Crews could receive another $373 in annual pay. The maximum pay for school board members was increased by $104.
Aside from Michael Crews, the elected officials contacted said they will not accept the raises, most citing the county commission’s decision to slash 3 percent raises for all county employees to help balance the 2011-12 budget.
“Honestly, I plan to return my raise,” said County Commissioner Gordon Crews, “because our employees didn’t get a raise. I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
The commissioner also expressed his disappointment that county workers weren’t given any additional compensation this year. He noted that the raise he’s eligible for, about $14 more a pay period, could help offset employee health insurance contributions.
“It’s not much, but it’s something,” said Gordon Crews.
Commissioner Hartley recalled past salary adjustments, some as little as $2 or $3 more.
“One time they gave it to us and it was like $100 and we just wrote a check back,” he said. “That’s what I’d like to do. I don’t care to have it. If other employees can’t have a raise, I wouldn’t feel right about taking it.”
Clerk of Courts Al Fraser said his salary hasn’t changed in four years, adding, “I wouldn’t take a dime more if my life depended on it.”
The potential repercussions of accepting a raise in the midst of a budget crunch is not lost on Michael Crews. He said he understands that his critics will likely use it against him.
“But if anybody did that, I’d say they were shallow in their thought process,” he said. “And if they let this $300 affect their decision about me, instead of looking at my job performance, they’ll be voting for me for the wrong reasons anyway ... I want them to vote for me because they believe I’m the best candidate and I did what I said I would do when I ran for election.”
|Last Updated on Friday, 23 September 2011 08:12|