At its Aug. 27 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to allow its members the right to accept or refuse a 1.7 percent cost of living raise each year. The vote comes amid ongoing public criticism that the commissioners’ salaries, which are among the highest in the state for the position, are exorbitant.
The same cost-of-living increase is given to county employees in general.
Commissioner Mike Fryar was the only board member to state that he intends to refuse the raise, noting that during last year's campaign he touted the idea of cutting commissioner salaries. At that time, Xpress asked all the candidates about the issue in a questionnaire. Here's a roundup of their responses:
Xpress: Do you support raising, maintaining or decreasing the commissioners’ total compensation, including all stipends and allowances? Why?
David Gantt: On Feb. 15, 2011, I voted to decrease my allowances by $12,480 or about 30 percent. I do not think commissioners should be paid at the top of the 100 counties and would consider further reductions to make us proportionate with our population size and responsibilities.
Holly Jones: Yes. Reducing by 17 percent would put Buncombe in line with other N.C. counties our size.
Brownie Newman: The amount the commissioners used to pay themselves was overboard and a poor use of taxpayers' money. I support the proposal made by Holly Jones this fall to further reduce the compensation to make it more consistent with the rest of North Carolina.
Ellen Frost: I support maintaining the current rate. The current board of commissioners adjusted the salary, stipends and compensation and with this adjustment, I believe it is a fair salary.
Mike Fryar: Decreasing these allowances due to their compensation/stipends were in excess of other commissioners throughout the state. This should be to serve the citizens of Buncombe County and not for personal financial gain.
David King: Without having served in this position, it is difficult to know if the current salary is appropriate . At this time, I support maintaining the current salary until an evaluation of the job requirements can be made.
Joe Belcher: I have no problem reducing the pay if needed. Why? I did not take this position to negotiate pay for myself but to negotiate savings for the citizens.