A salary study led to a discussion of whether Iredell County Commissioners are part-time or full-time staffers.
The pay-and-benefit study conducted by David Hill, management analyst at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, was presented at the recent commissioners’ retreat. It was conducted to analyze the needs of the community as well as to research how the county fares against other communities.
The data came from 19 counties that are all either geographically neighboring or comparable in size, staffing and service provision to Iredell County.
The counties used to do the market research included Alamance, Alexander, Cabarrus, Catawba, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Gaston, Johnston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Onslow, Orange, Pitt, Randolph, Rowan, Union, Wilkes and Yadkin.
With the data collected, the commissioners received feedback on salary and travel from Hill.
The study was done for elected officials with a focus on the commissioners because it has never been done for them before, County Manager Beth Jones said.
The specified information for the salary and benefits relating to the roles of the elected officials in the review was discussed with the intent of being included in a December agenda. However, the commissioners did not seem interested in adding a benefit package for themselves.
The commissioners’ salary and benefits were broken down for board members, the chairman and vice chairman.
It was recommended to increase the chairman’s compensation because it is 10.9% below market average.
“I recommend the chair’s travel remain at $6,240 and the salary be adjusted to $13,520, to achieve the market average of $19,760,” Hill said.
Chairman James Mallory’s salary is currently $11,585.
Vice Chairman Tommy Bowles was also recommended for a raise as his pay was 8.7% below the market average.
It was suggested to increase the salary to $12,176 to achieve the market average of $17,648 in total, including the travel. His current salary is $10,757.
The overall commissioner salaries are 6.9% below the market average, leading to a suggested increased from $10,757 to $11,877.
The biggest recommended change would be to add benefits.
Currently Iredell County only provides the electronic tablets and devices to the commissioners; other surveyed areas offer more benefits.
The primary recommendation was to provide the commissioners and eligible dependents benefits that are offered or provided to more than 60% of the surveyed counties, including health coverage for the commissioners and dependents and dental, life and vision coverage.
This would give commissioners coverage equivalent to full-time Iredell County employees.
An alternative option would be health and dental coverage as is offered or provided to more than 80% of the surveyed boards.
But are commissioners full time?
“How do you address other part-time employees in the county that don’t get these benefits?” Bowles asked.
Hill said a part-time employee, by definition, is someone who works 20 or fewer hours a week.
“But still we are actually classified as part-time; this is actually a temp job if you really get down to it,” Bowles said.
“Tommy hits it on the nail ... Mallory said. “We are a part-time classification; people understand we are either part-time or full-time.”
Hill said the commissioners in most counties surveyed were actually considered full-time, which is why there is such a difference.
“You can make yourself eligible or you can make yourself ineligible,” Hill said.
“The citizen answering the call to service is not driven by benefits and compensation they are driven by other factors,” Mallory said. “The reality is you lose money doing this job, big-time.”
Mallory and the commissioners said at the end of the discussion that they would consider all recommendations from Hill in regard to benefits and salary but did not currently find an interest in benefits being added to the commissioners’ package.
In the study the commissioners were not the only county positions evaluated. The sheriff and register of deeds were included.
The report had charts evaluating the pay of each county position with a summarized version with the market average and recommended change in rate for the position, or for benefits for that position.
The register of deeds position range was suggested to rise from $59,291 to $91,961 to $67,855 to $105,244.
Though these would increase the actually salary amount, it was suggested that remain the same at $80,995.
The register of deeds and sheriff received similar to the same recommendations in regard to benefits.
Based on the counties that were surveyed, 70.6% of the market provides a longevity supplement to those positions.
Hill suggested that this be considered to recognize the years of service they provide to the community.
The sheriff’s salary was 1.4% below the market average, which was $120,170.
The sheriff’s salary is suggested to remain the same based on his years of service and current salary rate.
Mallory said he was impressed when looking at the data that Iredell County threads around the median amount. “We are not outliers; we are in the middle,” Mallory said. “We value people coming in to serve in these positions,”
Mallory said he values the work of the employees and he does not mind paying someone a little more for their service and to keep them here.
None of these recommendations are in place; all were taken under advisement after Hill’s presentation.