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.
Commissioner David King said board members have spent an "inordinate amount of time discussing" the issue since the Asheville Citizen-Times reported Aug. 25 that the raise was included in this year's budget. Noting that the raise amounted to only 79 cents a day, he accused "the news media" of trying to "set the agenda and drive" the issue.
In other business, Commissioners heard an update from General Services Director Greg Israel on an energy audit the county's conducting to find ways to reduce carbon emissions. He reported that the audit should be complete in October and will include recommendations. "I think it's great,” said Commissioner Brownie Newman. “I really look forward to seeing what kind of steps they recommend.” Newman is the vice president of business development for local solar-power company FLS Energy and has pushed for such reductions in the past.
Meanwhile, Board Chair David Gantt announced that County Attorney Michael Frue's title will change to "senior staff attorney." In his new role, Frue will focus on assisting county departments such as the Health and Human Services Department with legal advice, rather than the commissioners. The board plans to hire a new part-time attorney to serve its needs at meetings.