By Michael H. McLendon
The ACC Commission is whining that they need a pay raise. The Commission tried to quietly ram thought their pay raise in December along with one for the Mayor Girtz, but they had to withdraw their proposal due to the public outcry. Well, they are back!!!
The Commissioners now want to raise their base salary of almost $14,000 to $28,693 at their 1 March Commission meeting. Perhaps, the Mayor saw the folly of this proposal and his raise is not included in the 1 March proposal.
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Commissioners can earn additional pay based on certain type training they receive and raises. The six lowest paid commissioners make $19,133 with Commissioner Wright being the highest paid Commissioner at $21,696 before the raise.
Let’s put the salaries and raise for the Commissioners in perspective. The medium household income for ACC according to the 2020 Census was $38,623 while the medium per capita income was $23,827 for a county with a 24% poverty rate. The story here is that our commissioners want to raise their salaries for a volunteer part-time public service position to a level that is higher than what many in ACC earn !
The whining by some commissioners to justify their own raise is breathtaking. Commissioner Houle has shared his pain in quitting his job to run for office and that he needs this raise to live. Commissioner Link has said all workers need a living wage in stating that the position of Commissioner does not pay a living wage. Commissioner Myers and others have said that the salary is so low that many in Clarke County who feel they are qualified to run for Commissioner cannot financially afford to seek office.
Not all Commissioners are so out of touch. At the 1 February Commission meeting, Commissioner Hamby reminded the whiners that they occupy a position of volunteer public service. Commissioner Davenport explained to the whiner’s, using examples from his personal experience as a commissioner, that making personal tradeoffs comes with accepting the position. Recently, Commissioner Thornton had to point out to the whiners that raising their salaries will mean the fees to qualify to run for the position of Commissioner will almost double making it harder for some to seek public office.
There are several reasons this pay raise proposal should be voted down.
It is unconscionable and arrogant for the Commission to vote on their own pay raise during a period of inflation not seen in 40 years when many have not recovered economically from the pandemic. The emotional reaction of the Mayor and Commission to the pandemic created hysteria and panic pressuring many businesses to close. I well remember one Commissioner screaming during a Commission meeting that “people are going to die!” Many citizens particularly lower income wage earners lost their jobs and many businesses have not recovered. Many who were in the workplace remain displaced. Yet, while the Mayor and our Commissioners were sowing fear, they did not miss a paycheck from ACC.
To raise their salary for a part time position volunteer public service position higher than the medium per capita income in ACC is unfair. Fairness is a word progressives like to use to slam others but not apply to themselves.
Further, several Commissioners seem ignorant of what public service means. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to mitigate the financial consequences of someone’s decision to seek and accept a volunteer public service position. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to make a part time public service position so financially attractive that people seek public office for financial gain. It may be that some Commissioners’ real goal is to turn this part time job into a full-time job at a much higher salary so they can have full employment.
The Commissioners knew what they were getting into before they ran for election. It sure seems like some Commissioners find the work of being a commissioner is too hard and that it takes too much of their time for the compensation they receive. To the Commissioners I say, this is the job you wanted. If you don’t like it, you have several options.
You could resign. You could find a job, while serving as a Commissioner, which will meet your financial needs. You could change your lifestyle to live within your means like most people do. Or you could change the Commission process to scope and prioritize the work to fit within the time you are willing to devote to the position given the level of compensation.
Commissioners, stop whining! Your role is about public service, and your position is part time. Make a choice. To the citizens of ACC, speak up and call your Commissioner and the Mayor to tell them to kill this pay raise proposal.
Michael H. McLendon resides in Athens-Clarke County Commission District 7.