Macon wraps up fiscal year
Macon County commissioners had some last-minute spending decisions to make before heading into the new fiscal year that started July 1.
With money still sitting in the county’s contingency fund, commissioners made several allocations, including about $40,000 for economic development incentives, $5,000 to fund a bonus for the county manager, $20,000 for the public library and $12,350 for security upgrades at the senior services building.
County manager raise
In following Jackson County’s process for hiring a new county manager, Commissioner Jim Tate said he was a bit surprised to see the top candidate offered a starting salary of $125,000. It got him thinking about how much Macon County pays its manager Derek Roland and whether it’s a competitive wage for the work he does.
“I sure don’t want to lose Derek,” he said.
At the age of 28, Roland was hired as Macon’s county manager in 2013 at the starting salary of $100,000 — $35,000 less than former manager Jack Horton, who had more than 30 years of experience in the position. Roland hasn’t received a raise since he was hired.
Tate compared Roland’s salary to the salaries of other county managers in similar populated counties. He found the average pay was around $120,000, with Transylvania County on the low end of $100,000 and Beaufort County on the high end of $150,000. Tate also made a point to mention that Highlands’ town manager makes a good bit more than Roland. Highlands’ population is around 1,000 compared to Macon’s population of about 35,000.
He said it was time for the board to discuss a raise for Roland given his many accomplishments in the last three years.
“To be successful in my opinion, you have to have two strong qualities — one is respect for your fellow man and your employees and the second is knowing no matter what happens you have the ultimate responsibility to look after this county and your employees,” Tate said to Roland. “We can’t deny that anything we’ve asked you to do, you’ve brought it back and exceeded our expectations.”
Roland has led an overhaul of the county’s health care plan that saved the county’s health care reserve fund from going bankrupt, implemented an employee pay plan to bring wages in line with other counties, walked the county through a revaluation year and has presented a revenue neutral budget to commissioners for the last three years without a tax increase.
Tate made a motion to give Roland a one-time $5,000 bonus with the understanding commissioners will discuss giving him a raise at their July board meeting.
Commission Chairman Kevin Corbin agreed with Tate that Roland had done a great job for the county and deserved to be compensated fairly.
“I feel like we run Macon County like a business … we have the third lowest tax rate in the state,” Corbin said. “If we were a business and we performed this well, the CEO would get a good raise or bonus — I think it’s fair.”
The board unanimously approved a $5,000 bonus for Roland and will discuss a raise at its next meeting.
Library gets financial boost
While the commissioners didn’t fulfill the library’s request for an additional $120,000 in this year’s budget, the county did agree to cough up another $20,000 to assist its three facilities in Franklin, Nantahala and Highlands.
The Macon County Library has been struggling for a few years to replace aging technology like computers and printers and to give employees much-needed raises, but the county hasn’t been willing to increase its funding to meet those needs. The county has allocated close to a million dollars for the library system for the last two years.
Commissioner Ronnie Beale, who acts as a liaison to the library board, said he met with Librarian Karen Wallace to go through her list of needs. With three libraries to support, Beale suggested allocating $20,000 out of the contingency fund to help Wallace with library needs.
“It will help her with some of the things and she will continue to go after grants — $20,000 is better than a slap in the face,” Beale said.
The board unanimously approved the allocation.
Senior center security
A couple of recent incidents at the county’s senior services center prompted the county to spend more than $12,000 to make security upgrades to the building.
While he wouldn’t go into the details, Beale said law enforcement had to be called out to the senior services building twice in the last two weeks regarding incidents at the county’s adult daycare program.
Local security companies were asked to come in to evaluate and make recommendations for improving safety conditions. Beale said the $12,000 would go toward installing panic buttons and entry access upgrades with keypad entry for employees.