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Pay raise for commissioners possible
May 24, 2006 12:00 am
May 12, 2006 – Following the election of a new Wilson County Commission in August, county lawmakers may see a $200 increase in their monthly paychecks – a $60,000 a year expense for county government.
The county's rules committee recently recommended the full Commission consider a resolution that would see squires' monthly pay doubled beginning Sept. 1.
Noting many commissioners regularly travel to the Wilson County Courthouse for numerous monthly meetings, rules committee members said the recent spike in gasoline prices played a significant role in the decision to seek a pay hike.
"You've got some of these people on committees who have to drive a good ways for meetings," District 24 Commissioner and rules committee member Paul Abercrombie said Thursday. " … Gasoline has gone up tremendously, and we haven't had any increase since it has started going up."
District 18 Commissioner Adam Bannach, also a member of the rules panel, regularly makes the trek from West Wilson County to attend a handful of county government meetings. As prices at the pump have continued to climb, so too have commissioners' out-of-pocket expenses, he said.
"The mileage adds up, especially for people who have several committee meetings guaranteed every month," Bannach said.
Currently, county commissioners receive $200 each month for the time spent at Commission and committee meetings. An extra $200 per month for the county's 25 commissioners is $5,000 more a month or $60,000 a year after 12 monthly meetings of the County Commission, Wilson County Finance Director Ron Gilbert said.
As of Thursday, Gilbert explained it was unclear how the increase would impact the county's 2006-07 budget, which is still being formulated.
"Of course, we always put preliminary budgets together. We never know how the whole budget's going to look until we get all of the pieces together," Gilbert added. "Our budget's about $141 million, so $60,000 is one figure we'd just have to look at."
A pay increase for county lawmakers was last proposed in August 2005 and was ultimately shot down in a 10-13-2 vote, Abercrombie said.
"What they were going to do was raise it $100 – starting in September (2005) after the budget process – and then, the next $100 would have come a year later," he said. "They voted it down."
Commissioners who endorsed the failed pay raise last year maintained their monthly pay was significantly less than that of commissioners in comparably sized counties.
And Bannach explained Wilson County lawmakers still trail county squires elsewhere in terms of monthly pay.
"A couple of years ago, I believe, some of them did kind of a comparison with other counties of our size, and … it was out of whack with the other counties from what I understood," Bannach said.
Commissioners' last pay increase came in September 1998, when their monthly salaries were bumped from $150 to $200 per month.
And though last year's attempt to increase monthly pay rates failed, Bannach said the proposal may enjoy stronger support because of the upcoming general election.
"This wouldn't take effect until the new county commissioners were in office … So, we thought that was a good way so that somebody's not voting on a raise for themselves, necessarily," he said. "That was my reasoning for wanting to do it now. They brought it up last year, but I just thought it wasn't really a good time until we were leaving office."
The proposed pay increase was introduced by District 4 Commissioner Luther Lenning at a recent meeting of the rules committee and will be considered by the full Commission on Monday. Attempts to contact Lenning for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.